*I received this book on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: Girl in the Blue Coat
Author: Monica Hesse
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days finding and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the German army invaded. Her illegal work keeps her family afloat, and Hanneke also likes to think of it as a small act of rebellion against the Nazis. On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman’s frantic plea to find a person: a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke initially wants nothing to do with such a dangerous task but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations—where the only way out is through.
While this book is devastatingly beautiful in it’s honest portrayal, what I loved most about it was it’s refreshing perspective on a WWII story. I love reading tales from the war, especially ones filled with great struggle and devotion the lay bare the sacrifice and struggle faced by so many during this difficult time. But one topic that has been relatively untouched in my reading of WWII books is the story of the resistance and those fighting behind the scenes, in secret, risking their lives on a daily basis to bring something as simple as cigarettes to a neighbour, or as great as trying to save lives.
Hanneke is a smuggler. She’s used to charming the German soldiers and lying to get around security checks, but her world turns upside-down when she is asked to smuggle something entirely new: a person. The plea of love exposes Hanneke to a world that she never knew existed, a world of people fighting back against the Nazis one little bit at a time. This small move of agreeing to help out a neighbour bring Hanneke closer to death than she’s ever been. It brings up terrible memories of the past and shocking revelations of the world that she is living in.
This story is open and honest. It touched me closely because of my own family’s history in the war. My grandmother was born and raise in The Netherlands. She was a young woman surviving during the Nazi occupation and met my grandfather, a Canadian soldier, during the Liberation. Hanneke is a woman who, in my mind, could so easily be my own Oma. I felt a personal connection to Hesse’s story, which added a whole new level to my reading.
Even without my own personal connection, The Girl in the Blue Coat, is a fantastic story that provides the reader with a glimpse into a story that’s not told nearly as often as it should be. Firstly the resistance, and secondly to Nazi occupied Holland. Hesse’s style is clear and captivating, and quite breathtaking to read.