The missing girl is Jewish. I need you to find her before the Nazis do.
Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days procuring and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, her 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 Germans invaded. She likes to think of her illegal work as a small act of rebellion.
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 dangerous work, but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations that lead her into the heart of the resistance, open her eyes to the horrors of the Nazi war machine, and compel her to take desperate action.
Description taken from Goodreads.
In the back of Girl in the Blue Coat, Hesse said that she wanted to “tell a story of small betrayals in the middle of a big war.” I think that’s the best description of this book you can possibly get. I loved it for that, and I hated it for that, but all in all, it was a pretty great story.
Above all, the writing is spot-on.
The voice of this novel drew me in from the very beginning. I loved Hanneke, and I could connect with her motivations and emotions every step of the way. She was a great heroine, even though she made some not-so-great decisions at times. Regardless of how I felt about the characters, I thought they were all very well-portrayed and described. I never had to try to see the world of Amsterdam in 1943 or the people living in it.
It takes a new/different look at World War II.
There’s a lot of World War II fiction out there, and like most genres, it’s all more or less the same. Finding something different is a treasure, and I’ve excited since I heard about this book to read from the view of the Dutch, specifically the Dutch that hid the Jews and quietly rebelled against the Nazis. I’ve been interested in this topic since I read Art Spiegelman’s Maus I and Maus II, and Hesse did an amazing job of expanding the topic.
What was the most notable for me in terms of writing and worldbuilding was how well Hesse managed to set everything up without info-dumping. Throughout the book, it’s clear that she’s done her research, but it all came together organically. This was a fascinating look at the time period without it feeling like reading a history book, and I think it would be a great read for a classroom or even individual students to read as a way of studying the era.
The mystery is sustainable.
Throughout the plot, everything makes sense. Everything was very much character-driven, and I could see the ways Hanneke was putting together the pieces of the puzzle. All in all, I thought things were very realistic. The plot didn’t go around in circles, and it wasn’t dull.
But the character twists were a bit dull.
Getting onto to what I disliked, the character twists were repetitive. I hate to even bring this up because I liked this book a lot and this wasn’t that big of a deal, but the character trait issue could’ve completely been avoided.
What I mean by character traits is that certain characters have similar back stories. I guess it’s justifiable because of the whole small betrayals in a big war thing, but I was a little disappointed by some of the surprises in the story. Also, giving the same hint about the big shocking revelation as a means of drawing out the whole shebang shouldn’t be a thing. It doesn’t build suspense; it’s just irritating.
All in all? I would definitely recommend it. It’s a solid World War II fiction, even though the ending was bit unsatisfactory. Actually, many parts of the book reminded me of one of my favorite historical fictions of all time, Ying Chang Compestine’s Revolution is Not a Dinner Party, and it was really refreshing to have such a great historical novel again. While I had issues with some of the characters, I loved many of them, and I was interested in this mystery from beginning to end. I was encouraged to read this book after reading numerous great reviews from other bloggers, and they weren’t wrong. If you’re into historical fiction, pick this one up! 3.5 stars.