The Dutch Orphan

Written by Ellen Keith
Review by Elizabeth Knowles

This gripping World War II story is set mostly in Amsterdam. Singer Johanna Vos is horrified by the Nazi cruelties, and works with the Resistance to shelter as many Jews as possible. She even adopts a Jewish infant and passes it off as her own. Her sister, Liesbeth, is married to a Nazi sympathizer and having an affair with another. She and Johanna had always been close, but now will she betray her sister? And if she does, can it ever be forgiven?

I found this serious historical novel difficult to read—and impossible to put down. Full of tension, danger, privation, pain, and treachery, it records the miserable war years in German-occupied Holland. It was far worse for Jews, of course, and scenes of jails and concentration camps are especially harrowing. Sometimes characters rationalize collaboration by saying they did it to help their families survive, but Johanna fights against the Nazis no matter what. No price is too high for her to pay.

The author lived in Amsterdam, did research there, and clearly knows her subject. This is a page-turner, but be warned: This is a dark and disturbing book.