Book Review: Dutch Girl by Robert Matzen (Four Stars)

Book Review: Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II by Robert Matzen (Four Stars)

“It always boils down to the same thing of receiving love but desperately wanting to give it.” Audrey Hepburn

Terrible opening to a worthwhile book. Opening scene focuses on Nazi sympathies of Ella van Heemstra, Audrey’s mother. Then follows a chapter on family genealogy. Readers may be excused for wondering who the book is about. Persistence is rewarded.

“After living the long months and years under the Germans, you dreamed what would happen if you ever got out. You swore you would never complain about anything again.” AH

Not a biography. Rather a detailed history of Audrey’s childhood and war years, which coincided with her early teens. Matzen weaves the many threads of the girl who became an international celebrity and ambassador for children.

“I was so destroyed by [reading Anne Frank‘s diary] again that I said I couldn’t deal with it. It’s a little bit as if this has happened to my sister. I couldn’t play my sister’s life It’s too close, in a way she was a soul sister….”

Forward flashes jolt the reader out of the moment of the story. As it is, many chapters open with a Hepburn quote from interviews thirty and forty years later. Overall, an excellent, if flawed work.

“The fact that she was speaking German to an all-German kitchen staff in a German war hospital would haunt her in the years to come.”

Not to mention two gushing articles Ella van Heemstra authored about Hitler. About her mother: officially labeled “politically unreliable” and “silly,” she was in fact a collaborator until the middle of the war. Don’t judge her too harshly, many contemporary British and Americans swooned over Hitler … and Stalin. She strove mightily to protect Audrey from the taint of her foolishness.

“I experienced a lot then, but it was not all misery. The circumstance brought family and friends closer together. You ate the last potatoes together.” AH