I was introduced to Dutch author Tommy Wieringa by newbooks magazine issue 84 and a five star review for “These Are The Names”, later short-listed for Bookhugger Book of The Year. This was a chilling, thought-provoking novel of a search for a modern Promised Land. Fuelled by its success publishers Scribe have embarked upon a series of reissues of his earlier works. “Joe Speedboat” was his debut from 2009 and is translated as was the last book by Sam Garrett. On domestic release it became the best selling debut novel in Dutch but didn’t find that much of a worldwide audience. I think it’s time to change this with this 2016 reprint. It is one of the best books I have read this year and surpasses, in my opinion, “These Are The Names”.
Teenager Frankie Hermans awakes after a horrific accident to hear his parents talking about a new arrival to their village, a boy called Joe Speedboat with a predilection for making bombs. His arrival in Lomark was equally explosive- through the wall of a house in a truck in a crash which killed his father. Joe is adamant no-one knows his real name as he transforms the lives of those around him. I felt that “These Are The Names” favoured themes over characterisation but here it is the marvellous characters that take central stage, especially the refreshingly energetic Joe, full of schemes to rock a sleepy village and narrator Frankie, left without speech and with limited movement who is soon incorporated into Joe’s big plans.
This book it touching, eccentric, laugh out loud funny and completely unpredictable. I found myself hanging onto every word. It is a marvellous achievement. It is a coming of age novel with a difference and has immense vitality and like the very best novels it is life-enhancing. Other novels by Wieringa are being republished in the same format. If they are as good as this then we have found ourselves an important European writer.
Joe Speedboat is republished by Scribe in this new edition in 2016.