Continuing along in the vein of reading World War 2 books, I picked up this YA novel The Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse which takes place in Amsterdam during the war.
My mother grew up in the Hague during the same time and was approximately the same age as Hanneke, the main character in the book. She has told me many stories about growing up in occupied Holland but it was hard to get a complete picture .I wanted to imagine the smells, the feeling, understand and feel what life was really like.
From that perspective I really enjoyed the book because of course, as you follow Hanneke on her journey you are introduced to the mechanics and the horrible impact of occupation by the Germans.
Hanneke’s story, however is not my mother’s story. But it’s an interesting, page turning tale of a young woman (18) who loses her boyfriend on the Dutch front. Her grief and her family’s circumstances drive her to buy and sell on the black market. While making a delivery to a client the client asks her to help her find a young Jewish girl she had been hiding but who had disappeared.
This story takes you right into the work of the dutch resistance and to the disappearance of Dutch jews , over a 100,000 of whom were rounded up and sent to their deaths in German camps.
Hanneke herself has to make choices about the person she wants to be and the risks she’s willing to take. What the author presents is the fabric of history – a painful tableau of complicity, cowardice, the crime of doing nothing as well as enormous courage and bravery. This period of time is still so close we can almost touch it. These acts of historic atrocity are always just around the corner. We can see that in our own existing political climate.
It was a good story, well told and should be read by all generations for the simple fact that history should never repeat itself.