Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Dutch Girl (Robert Matzen)

Matzen, Robert - Dutch Girl

★★★★★★☆

Title: Dutch Girl
Author: Robert Matzen
Genre: Non-Fiction / Biography / History  Pages: 400
First published: 15 April 2019 by GoodKnight Books
Edition: ARC e-book, courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher

According to her son, Luca Dotti, “The war made my mother who she was.” Audrey Hepburn’s war included participation in the Dutch Resistance, working as a doctor’s assistant during the “Bridge Too Far” battle of Arnhem, the brutal execution of her uncle, and the ordeal of the Hunger Winter of 1944. She also had to contend with the fact that her father was a Nazi agent and her mother was pro-Nazi for the first two years of the occupation.  

I started out wanting to read this book because an interest in Audrey Hepburn and her connection to The Netherlands, where I was born and now live again, but this book was so much more than a biography.

Besides finding out more about an icon, this book tells the story of a war, of a small area, in a country I grew up in. Of course much time was spent on WWII in school. I remember being moved and touched by documentaries about the war shown during history lessons, the images of stacks of dead people, the horrors of concentration camps are still burnt into my heart, as they should be. In a way, this was a different kind of WWII story. It still brought the horrors of war home, but from the perspective of a small area and the people that lived there.

Through Audrey’s story and the story of her family, we find out what life was life for everyone living through the war; the suffering, the uncertainty, the fear, the hunger.

It all paints a picture of the girl Audrey was and the woman she was to become. Robert Matzen did a great job piecing the facts together with a bit of artistic licence here and there. I think this book is very well written and very coherently tells of a complicated time in history and the effects it had on people. I particularly found Audrey’s mother Ella fascinating character.

This book reiterates the fact that although I do not like reading WWII based fiction, I do really appreciate a well written non-fiction book on the subject and this one showed a different perspective from any other book I have read on WWII. This is not so much a biography as a historical portrait of Arnhem and Velp during the war.

Highly recommended if you are interested in either Audrey Hepburn or WWII.

6 out of 7 stars

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