A story about love, hope, and courage set during one of history’s darkest days, Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse is an intricate and exquisite exploration of what brings people together.
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.
Meticulously researched, intricately plotted, and beautifully written, Girl in the Blue Coat is an extraordinary, gripping novel from a bright new voice in historical fiction.
Hesse has woven a beautifully complex and involved story about an unlikely group of people, during the height of Nazi occupation in Amsterdam. With extensive research and historical data to back up her story, Hesse uses fiction to illuminate the personal stories that really highlight the true nuances of cruelty and horror that took place during World War II.
Often in the book, Hanneke struggles with selfishness and selflessness — trying to find the courage to do the right thing, regardless of the risk to herself — and discovering the different ways individuals in her life fight back against an intrinsic and powerful evil. Girl in the Blue Coat illustrates two often overlooked aspects of World War II really elegantly: first, that courage took many forms. The people who took the time to document what was happening; those who brought small pieces of comfort to friends and neighbors; those who fought for love in the face of hatred and discrimination. And second, that even while this great tragic war was unfolding — life was still happening for the individuals affected by it. Friendships were made and broken; lovers were found and lost; families were torn apart and remade.
The beauty and elegance of these stories are what make Girl in the Blue Coat so special. It’s not really a story about World War II or the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam; it’s about the individuals fighting to do the right thing and carve out their lives in the midst of greater turmoil.
Though any book about World War II is bound to be filled with tragedy — and Girl in the Blue Coat is no exception — it also shines a light on the people who fought endlessly, and at risk to their own safety, for small victories; for hope. Look for the book in stores April 5th.