The Girl in the Blue Coat
By Monica Hesse
Published: April 5, 2016
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.
Beautifully written, intricately plotted, and meticulously researched, Girl in the Blue Coat is an extraordinary, gripping novel from a bright new voice.
What I know of The Netherlands and the Nazi Occupation during WWII is due to the memoirs of Anne Frank and Corrie Ten Boom (The Hiding Place). Unlike Anne and Corrie, Hanneke is not Jewish or hiding Jews in her home. She is instead surviving by procuring black market goods for her clients. Hanneke is also grieving the death of her boyfriend Bas who was killed during the Nazi invasion. Initially I wasn't sure I'd like Hanneke as she comes across as this cold character but Hanneke begins to change as she helps Mrs. Janssen look for Miriam and as she gets unwittingly involved with the resistance. At times I found Hanneke's naivete and stubbornness to be frustrating but she was acting from a good place and I liked seeing her character grow and develop maturity.
The story was suspenseful and there was intrigue over the missing Miriam and how she escaped hiding and where she might have gone. I also liked all the little details that added to the setting and really made it move vivid and gave the novel a sense of place. I liked learning about various Dutch foods like stroopwafels which I found at my local Wal-mart and enjoyed while reading the book. I find this time period fascinating and I liked learning about the Dutch resistance movement and what life was like in Holland at this time.
I thought this book was fantastic and a page turner that also affected me emotionally. I think readers who liked Anne Blankman's Prisoner of Night and Fog or Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein would like this book (and it is more accessible for readers who struggled with Code Name Verity). I would suggest it to fans of historical fiction and those who want to know more about this time period.
Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss