Although classified as historical fiction, this book is about the experiences of the author's mother. It is set during the last months of WW2 in FriesAlthough classified as historical fiction, this book is about the experiences of the author's mother. It is set during the last months of WW2 in Friesland, a northern province of Holland. The Germans were retreating. However the book is primarily a coming of age story. Don't be fooled by the beginning, which is action filled and dramatic. Rather than being a plot driven book, it is focused upon Leen, the central character's development into adulthood. It is about the war's impact on one family. It is about how each family member reacted differently. I will say this, some of the family members were irreparably destroyed. What philosophical/psychological beliefs save us and enable us to surmount past horrors? So the book tries to guide a young reader into making appropriate choices.
I like books that focus upon characterization rather than those that are plot oriented. I did learn about how the war played out in Friesland. This book is not in any way similar to The Diary of a Young Girl. Although Jewish persecution is an element in this story, it is not primary. In my view this is primarily a Bildungsroman. It is a coming of age story. It is a story about becoming independent and making your own choices. It is very much about guilt. Every member of this family feels guilty in one way or another. For me this was just too much. I felt like shaking them and saying - heavens, there is a war going on! Stop blaming yourself for for that which happens. This bothered me to no end! At the same time I know that others may say I am too "logical". People DO feel guilty even when they shouldn't.
I also felt that the presence of untranslated Dutch made portions unclear.
And this book almost reads like an ad promoting cigarettes. Everybody smokes. Boy does smoking wondrously calm you.... That is the message given. I found this just ridiculous. Again, am I too logical and hard-nosed?!
The latter third of the book is gripping, but the finale was such a finger pointer. The lesson given on how to become an adult lacked subtlety. I am going to give it only two stars. If you are looking for a Bildungsroman, you might enjoy it more than I did. Remember I choose to be very restrictive with my stars and only judge a book from my own personal likes and dislikes. ...more
Somebody will just have to clue me in to why this book is so special!
You feel like you are reading the lines of a play rather than a novel. There areSomebody will just have to clue me in to why this book is so special!
You feel like you are reading the lines of a play rather than a novel. There are sentences such as - "on the table were three dirty cups and a newspaper" or "he carried the bag in his left hand". Phrases are repeated; we, the audience, are being told to pay attention....so that a message can be relayed. I found this annoying.
Time and time again I thought that doesn't make sense; one would not do that or think that. The story is not built upon plausible events. (view spoiler)[ Vim and Marie are hiding a Jew in their house and he becomes sick and dies. They have to get rid of the body. Vim and a doctor drag the dead body out to a nearby park and place it under a bench. Is there no better place?! What do they worry about? That it is raining and cold; the body will get wet! This is all rather absurd. Anyhow Vim and Marie are forced into hiding, since they have not only left the dead body in Vim's pajamas, which have his insignia on them, but also carelessly left laundry tags attached. Now they are themselves forced into hiding, but they do go outside. At their new residence, others are told that Marie is pregnant. She is not pregnant and she is not informed that others have been told this! Generally all those involved in hiding people were unbelievably careless. Neither was the total lack of communication between Vim and Marie believable. If you are putting your life in danger by hiding someone, a little planning, and thus a little talking, is mandatory. Neither has Marie any understanding of why a Jew would not want to convert to another religion. Everyone is walking around in a fog! I could name many more unbelievable incidents. (hide spoiler)]
Given that the events seem implausible, the whole story seems not as a real event but simply as a means for the author to make a statement. So what is the author trying to say? Maybe how hard it is to really imagine another's situation. Or, to fully understand another, you must be in their shoes, only then will you fully comprehend. Or does the author ask us how much danger are we willing to put ourselves in to help another? Maybe.....but nothing in this story is convincing!
I have nothing to remark about the audiobook narration by James Clamp.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I read this as a kid. I still have the book, a hardcover from the 50s! Gray blue woth a rectangular picture of the twokids skating down the canals. ThI read this as a kid. I still have the book, a hardcover from the 50s! Gray blue woth a rectangular picture of the twokids skating down the canals. This and A Dog of Flanders were how I pictured Holland. It was so strange to visit these places as an adult. In fact, A Dog of Flanders took place in Belgium's Antwerp....more
Gundula and Katri got me thinking of children's books that I read in Swedish. I adored this. I read it in Swedish while I was leaning the language. AcGundula and Katri got me thinking of children's books that I read in Swedish. I adored this. I read it in Swedish while I was leaning the language. Actually it is a Dutch author. The book was a envelope sized yellow hardcover with an oval picture on the front. The cover got destroyed, but I still have the book pages. I THOUGHT I would read it to the kids when they got older, but I don't think I ever did. I loved that book....more
If my own knowledge of history had been better I would have given it 5 stars....... Due to my ignorance, there were points where I was a bit lost. You learn not only about his travels and the landscape and the people he met on his journey, but also how history has formed all that he saw. He leaves from Holland, travels up the Rhine in Germany then down the Danube through Austria, Chezckolslovakia to Hungary - on foot, from December 1933 through March 1934. He is 19 years of age. You do run into the rumblings of the approaching war, but that is not the central focus. The focus is on art and literature and history and the people he met along the way. Both jails and mayors of the small villages and friends introduced by other friends offered him a bed and a meal. He stayed in beautiful castles along the Danube. He talked and talked with the people. You read this book and you want to do the same trip, but of course that is now impossible...... He does take one short trip on a barge and another trip by train with a friend to Prague. I particularly loved the intertwining description of the city, the art, the music and the history of this city. It would be worth it to pick up this book if you are only interested in reading the chapter on Prague!!!!
The writing style is fabulous. Here follows a quote after his stay in Prague when he was traveling near the Slvakian border to Hungary.
"My next call, only a few doors away, was a similar haunt of sawdust and spillt liquor and spit, but this time KRCMA was daubed over the window. All was Slav within. The tow-haired Slovaks drinking were dressed in conical fleece hats and patched sheepskin-jerkins with the matted wool turned inwards. They were shod canoe-shaped cowhide moccasins. Their shanks cross-gartered with uncured thongs, were bulbously swaddled in felt that could only be unwrapped in the spring. Swanp-and-conifer men they looked, with faces tundra-blank and eyes as blue and as vague as unmapped lakes which the plum-brandy was misting over. But they might just as well have been swallowing hydromel a thousand years ealier, before setting off to track the cloven spoor of the aurochs of a frozen Trans-Carpathian bog." (page 229-230)
In the chapter about Prague one finds the following text:
"The spires and towers recalled the earlier Prague of the Wenceslases and the Ottokars and the race of the Premysl kings, sprung from the fairy-tale marriage of Czech princess with a plough-boy encountered on the banks of the river. The Czechs have always looked back with longing to the reigns of the saintly sovereign and of his descendants and to the powerful and benevolent Charles IV - a golden age when Czech was the language of rulers and subjects, religious discord unknown and the rights of crown and nobles and commons and peasants all intact. These feelings gained strength during the Czech revival under the last hundred years of Habsburg ascendancy. Austrian rule fluctuated between unconvinced absolutism and liberalism soon repented and it was abetted by linguistic pressures, un timely inflexibility and all of the follies that assail declining empires, for knavery was not to blame. These ancient wrongs must have lost much of their bitterness in the baleful light of modern times when the when the only evidence to survive it is an heirloom of luminous architectural beauty." (page 149)
What I want to show by this quote is that the writing is very erudite. Be warned, the text isn't always light However there is so much that is just wonderful to experience through the accounts, reflections and diary notes. He is 19 when he travelled. He is a normal kid, drinking and seeing the towns and the world around him. The books are written many years after his travels. In the interim the author has matured and further increased his knowledge and ability to express himself. So the more knowledgeable and erudite the reader is himself, the more he will enjoy this book. It probably should be given five stars, but I gave it four. I am who I am. The four stars reflect how the book was perceived by me. ...more