Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

9781501112171_6e1b5.jpgI’m back again with another WWII historical fiction novel, which seems to be one of my favorite genres of late. This is written for a YA audience, but like Salt to the Sea, adults will also enjoy reading it. Girl in the Blue Coat will be published April 5, 2016.

The story takes place in Amsterdam in 1943. Hanneke is a brave, young Dutch girl with nothing much else to lose, having recently lost her true love, Bas, to the war, as well as her best friend Elspeth. She supports her mother and crippled father working for a funeral director. What she actually does for Mr. Kreuk, however, is locate and deliver items found on the black market, items such as chocolate, cigarettes, and extra meat which have become scarce during the war efforts. As German soldiers roam the streets in her village and Jewish families are rounded up all around her, Hanneke’s courage shines. She becomes skilled at tricking the soldiers so they let her pass without any trouble. Her small acts of rebellion against Nazis and Hitler, though done mostly in secret, provide a small measure of satisfaction to combat the immense grief she struggles with daily.

One day, during a routine delivery to an older woman names Mrs. Janssen, Hanneke’s is asked to help locate a missing girl in a blue coat, named Mirjam. She was hiding in Mrs. Janssen’s cellar since her family was transported and killed by German soldiers, but has recently turned up missing. The problem is that the girl is Jewish, and if Hanneke is caught helping a Jewish girl, she will also be sent away or worse.  As Hanneke searches in secret, with the help of some members of an underground resistance group including Bas’s brother Ollie, she finds out that the girl in the blue coat either doesn’t want to be found, or that she may not be the girl Hanneke is searching for after all. Is it worth risking lives to locate one missing Jewish girl, when so many Jewish people are being rounded up like livestock and sent to uncertain death? Hanneke gave Mrs. Janssen her word, and she will not stop until she finds Mirjam, the girl in the blue coat.

This is a coming-of-age novel with so much going on. There are stories of Jewish babies and young children who are rescued by brave resistance workers, much like Hanneke’s friend, Mina, as their families are taken to concentration camps. There is hope, even in the most dire circumstances, and there is love between family, and between best friends. The author has done a beautiful job bringing light to a portion of history which should always be remembered. Overall, Girl in the Blue Coat is a wonderful story, for which you won’t be disappointed. My only disappointment is that it had to end.

Thanks to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for the early review copy.

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The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

nightingaleThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is a fabulous choice for historical fiction fans or any fiction readers. Set during World War II in and around war ravaged Paris, it is a story which alternates between two sisters and what they each must endure to survive the war. Older sister Vianne and her young daughter Sophie are left to fend for themselves when Vianne’s husband Antoine is called away to serve in the war. The hardships begin when a series of Nazi soldiers decide to billet in their home, taking and using whatever and whomever they please. Vianne’s younger sister, Isabelle is rebellious and passionate. She makes it her goal to make a difference and do something to fight back against the Germans who are taking over her city and her home, no matter the danger and risks. The thing that I loved most about this book is that is centered around female characters fighting for their lives and those of innocent children. It really paints a truthful (though heartbreaking and unfathomable at times) portrait of the war’s effect on women. I challenge you to read this book with dry eyes. I certainly couldn’t. I will even go out on a limb and say this is the best book that I have read about World War II and the Holocaust so far. Close seconds are Jodi Picoult’s The Storyteller and Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. Amazing, just amazing.