Lena is a naive, awkward teenager struggling to understand the complexities of living in German-occupied Holland. She copes by convincing herself that she doesn’t care, that what happens around her is not her concern (though she does feel some guilt about not helping a Jewish friend who has been taken away). Lena is thrilled when Sofie, a charming, flighty, irresponsible girl, befriends her. Sofie persuades Lena to go on a hunger journey, but things quickly go wrong. The girls have to rely on two young German soldiers, one of whom, Albert, takes a fancy to Lena. (From Amazon.ca)
I really did enjoy reading this book. It shows how war can rear its’ ugly head, and it brings out the worst qualities in average every day people. It shows a different point of view (as Lena is not Jewish). However, like most books which take place during this awful period in history I couldn’t help but feel so much anger towards some of the characters, and because of this I think the book does a great job in bringing out emotions from the reader.
Of all the characters in this book, I hated Lena’s father the most. He was an awful horrible man who treated his family with such disrespect. He was so selfish and horrid. I felt like wringing his neck when he gave himself more helpings of food when his wife needed more, and his children were practically starving. He wasn’t self sacrificing or did things for the sake of his family. He just cared about himself. To make things even worse, he also didn’t like the idea of Lena and Sarah being friends because of his own prejudices. He was just a character I could not stand to read at all. He was just so hateful and selfish. There were other characters that made me see red, but then the review would then be an awful long hate list.
At first, I thought Sofie was really fun to read, she seemed like a such a fun person to be around with. However when things turned around and looked bad, she would chicken out and let Lena do all the hard work. I had to agree with Lena, there were plenty of times where you just wanted to slap Sofie hard for her stupidity! I’d say about the second half of the book I was starting to dislike Sofie.
Plot wise, I thought the book was good. It was a little slow to start out but once the setting and the atmosphere was established the book got interesting. I really did like Lena and Albert together. I understood her reluctance to be with him, and her resistance to reciprocate his feelings, but I thought Albert was really a nice character despite who he’s fighting for. The book does a good job in showing a ‘human’ side to who we would normally consider our enemies, yet on the other hand, showing who we would consider our ‘allies’ as not so friendly at all. Naturally, it only takes about several moments for Sofie to do something ridiculously stupid and puts Lena into a huge bind – again. However I admire Lena for her courage and maturity. She matured ten times faster than Sofie did (Sofie eventually sees a bit of reason, but not until literally the last few pages of the book).
I did enjoy reading the little epilogue, but I feel as if more should have come out of this story. I wanted to know what happened once Sofie and Lena had reached their destinations! I wanted to know if Lena and Albert end up being together! what about Lena’s father? does he get his come uppins? it’s these little things that weren’t revealed, yet I thought if they were, the book would have probably received a perfect 10 from me.
However, don’t let that deter you from reading this book! I thought this was a great novel showing how war can bring out the best and the worst qualities in people. It shows how sometimes the people you expect to act in a certain way could act the exact opposite, and possibly worse. I really do recommend this book to those interested in the Second World War and Resistance activities.
I give it a 7 out of 10.