In 1943 Amsterdam, Hanneke is the girl who can help you find things like coffee, meat, kerosene. But when a lonely widow asks Hanneke to find a missing Jewish girl, Hanneke at first refuses to get involved. Locating a Jewish girl and trying to rescue her is far too dangerous.
On the other hand, maybe danger is exactly what Hanneke needs to distract her from the aching grief of her boyfriend’s recent death. Reluctantly, Hanneke agrees to investigate the girl’s disappearance. Her search throws her in the path of a well-organized group of resistance workers who beg Hanneke to help them. Soon Hanneke is up to her neck in activities that could get her shot at any time. As the days pass and the chance of finding the missing girl alive dwindle, Hanneke becomes desperate. She must find this girl before the Nazis do. She must repay her debt, saving this girl to atone for the life Hanneke’s responsible for ending.
I don’t read much historical fiction, but every time I do, I enjoy it and vow to include more in my reading lists. I grew up reading and listening to Corrie ten Boom’s memoir, The Hiding Place, so the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands holds a special interest for me. It always calls to mind the courage and perseverance of those involved in resistance and rescue efforts.
I loved that Hesse included sides of the resistance movement that I wasn’t at all familiar with, including the Underground Camera movement and the rescue of infants and small children from the major deportment site in Amsterdam.
The story has a lot of layers. On the surface, it’s about finding a girl with the help of various resistance efforts. But the story goes much deeper into how the Nazi occupation affected relationships between friends and lovers. The kinds of small betrayals that, due to the severe restrictions placed on the people by the German occupation, ultimately led to death. All those layers weave together to form an intricate story that kept me turning pages all the way to the end. I read this entire book in one sitting, and I’d probably read it again tomorrow.
The Girl in the Blue Coat will appeal to fans of Code Name Verity, though on the whole, it’s much cleaner in terms of language and violence. This is a great representation of an important moment in history, and because Hesse highlighted some of the lesser known efforts happening behind enemy lines, the tale felt fresh and new. I definitely recommend this one.
A couple of brief kisses. One boy confesses to being in love with another boy.
There’s a brief discussion about the fact that at first non-practicing Jews thought they might be safer from Nazis than practicing Jews.
A teenage girl is shot in the head.
Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.