Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Book Love: Girl in the Blue Coat

I finished this book about 2 hours ago and immediately thought "I need to blog about this" because it was fantastic.  Devastatingly so but fantastic. 

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse
page count: 301
approx. read time: 4.5 hours

This is the story of Hanneke who is a young girl living in Amsterdam in 1943.  The Germans have occupied the Netherlands and her life has been turned upside down in a matter of years.  I don't know that the book ever says exactly how old she is but I'm assuming she's in her late teens/early 20s (it sounds like it had finished school a few years earlier and could be in college). 

Hanneke lives with her parents who mostly stay at home other than doctor appointments.  Hanneke has gotten a job, a real job, but also a secret job, transporting black market goods: cigarettes, coffee, things bought with dead people's ration cards.  She is able to keep her family alive and fed because of her illegal job.  She's mourning the loss of her boyfriend who was killed by the Germans in battle. As the book starts she doesn't have any other friends. 

On day on a normal, routine, black market delivery, Hanneke is asked by one of her customers to help her find a girl.  A girl in a blue coat.  A girl this woman had been hiding in a secret room in her house.  A girl she can't report as missing because that would put her in greater danger than she already is (likely) in.  Hanneke just works with black market goods, she doesn't know anything about a resistance or a network of people to contact to find a missing Jewish girl.  But for some reason she decides to help.  She wants to know what happened to this girl.  She wants to find her.  And that leads to a whole host of dangerous and secret missions.

Most of this is found on the book jacket and I don't want to say much to spoil what happens.  It took unexpected twists and had me pretty captivated; I read the whole book in a little over 24 hours.  It was painfully good but also heartbreaking.  We've heard a lot about the horrors that happened during that period of time and I've read other books that take place in German occupied countries during World War II but this was my first in the Netherlands.  The author has a very informative note at the end about about much of this story was based on fact which is heartbreaking and painful to think about.

My library classified this as a young adult book but I certainly think it would appeal to almost anyone who has an interest in World War II or just historical, fact based, fiction.  Strongly recommend.  If you enjoyed The Nightingale or The Book Thief or The War that Saved my Life or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I think you would like this book. 

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