Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

512busy-soelWhen I found Girl in the Blue Coat at my town library, I was pleased because I could take it home right away without having to make a request through the library network.

Girl in the Blue Coat was written by Monica Hesse. This is a World War II novel, which seems to be a popular setting lately. Hanneke lives in occupied Holland. She is done with school, and has a rather bland and unassuming job. This is, however, only a front- she is really helping transport black market goods around Amsterdam and delivering them to whoever is willing to pay her boss’s prices. You would be surprised what people would pay for chocolate or other coveted goods.

Hanneke tries to stay out of her customers’ business. It’s better that they know as little about each other as possible, right? That changes when one of her customers asks for help. She doesn’t need anything material; the customer asks Hanneke to help find the Jewish girl who was hiding in her house, but has disappeared.

And so Hanneke tries to find one missing girl in an entire city. The only information Hanneke has is the girl’s name and the fact that she was wearing a blue coat when she disappeared.   There are very few people Hanneke can trust, and she doesn’t want to draw attention to herself by asking too many questions.

Hanneke is a compelling protagonist. She has a reason for working in such a dangerous line of business: her beloved boyfriend died defending Holland during the Nazi invasion, and she hates the German occupiers. Despite his death serving as her motivation, it is not something that she has come to terms with before now. She seems aware of the confiscations and deportations taking place in the city, but it is not until she takes on the responsibility of finding the missing girl that she gains a more accurate assessment of what is going on around her. Hanneke is awkwardly between childhood and adulthood. Her country is occupied, and her future is uncertain. She does not know if she can succeed at what she has been tasked with, but helping to find the girl seems like the right thing to do.

I would recommend Girl in the Blue Coat. The biggest question is, of course, whether or not Hanneke finds the missing girl. You’ll have to read the book if you want the answer to that question, and as you make your way through the book, you’ll discover that the answer is far more complicated than one missing girl. This is a tale of friendship, loyalty, and sacrifice. I will be thinking about this book for awhile, and I look forward to reading more of Hesse’s books in the future.

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