The bizarre fantasy world of a lonely adolescent
Inventive, dreamy Gieles lives with his father and a flock of geese on a plane-spotters’ campsite next to an airstrip. The surrounding landscape, reclaimed from the sea, is as isolated as Gieles himself. The fourteen-year-old boy is longing for the mysterious dreadlocked girl he’s met online, and for the affection of his absent mother, off on hapless missions to save the world. Gieles conceives a desperate, dangerous plan to attract his mother’s attention. He’ll be a hero—just like Captain Sully, who bravely landed on the Hudson after geese flew into his engines. This charmingly upbeat novel describes the fantasy-driven world of a teenage boy. At the same time, it tells the incredible story about how the Dutch turned water into land.
Anne-Gine Goemans (1971) is a Dutch journalist and novelist. Goemans debuted in 2008… Read more
Book Club Questions
- Did you have any expectations before you started reading? What were they? Were they met?
- Were you able to sympathize with Gieles’s mother before we see her in person at the end of the story?
- Would you be willing to spend large amounts of time in a poorer country to try and help out there, if you have/had children? Would this involve a conflict between two calls of duty, and be motivated by conflicting feelings of guilt?
- Is the great cathartic climax likely to result in better relations between Gieles and his mother? Do you think he will forgive her; and is there really anything to forgive?
- On various occasions Gieles thinks that Meike would be perfect if she dressed more “normal.” Does this mean he’s basically attracted to her physique rather than her personality? Or is he attracted by some elements of her eccentric character, too?
- Were there any potential couples you were rooting for, other than Gieles and Meike?
- What did you think of the way Gieles’s family dealt with sexuality? Was it stricter or more laidback than you would expect?
- Would Super Waling have aroused more sympathy if his obesity problem had been glandular? Did the grotesque descriptions of his body and movements make him more repellent?
- Is it hard not to judge someone who is so obese?
- Was there any particular household in the airstrip-side village which you found more recognizable than the others? Why?
- Could the stories of Super Waling’s ancestors have taken place anywhere near you in the 19th century? Which elements of the descriptions would fit best?
- Why did Bufted and Tufted leave?
- Did you find the ending to be satisfying and meet your expectations? Why, why not?
- Were there any plot points that were left unresolved or not resolved to your satisfaction?
- Will you look for more work by Anne-Gine Goemans?
“A funny, tenderhearted book reminiscent of Little Miss Sunshine. A wonderful mix of humor and gentle melancholy.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A book you’ll feel homesick for as soon as you’ve closed it” —PETER BUWALDA, author of Bonita Avenue
“A well-balanced, complete novel that stands out because of its many themes and quirky, eccentric characters, whose tragicomic character traits are movingly identifiable” —JURY, DIORAPHTE PRIZE
“The Dutch Annie Proulx” —Opzij
“A captivating story about a heartwarming adolescent” —Algemeen Dagblad
Why You Should Read This Book
‘Just in front of my house is the statue of Hansje Brinker. Everyone knows the legendary fairytale of the boy with his finger in the dike, who saved the Netherlands from the rising water. This legend inspired me to write this novel. My protagonist, Gieles, is a modern Hansje Brinker: he fights for the place where he and his loved ones live.’
ANNE-GINE GOEMANS, the author
‘Gliding Flight, with its full cast of beautifully realized, well-rounded characters, required paying very close attention to voice. From the endearing Gieles to the obnoxious Tony, from Meike’s adolescent angst to her parents’ clueless concern, plus the whole parallel history of Sophia and Ide—each one of them is a unique flesh-and-blood person, and I had to make sure they stayed that way in their journey from Dutch to English.’
NANCY FOREST-FLIER, the translator
‘Anne-Gine Goemans’s writing reminds me of John Irving. It is full of fantasy and absurd situations, it’s fresh and alive, it’s funny and moving. It flows like a Dutch river and flies like an airplane, carefree and willful at the same time. Goemans is a fantastic storyteller.’
JUDITH UYTERLINDE, the publisher