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Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

February 8, 2022

Hanneke is the main character in a mystery novel called Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse. She is a black market delivery girl in WWll Amsterdam, who finds and delivers illegal merchandise to customers. She has been making her rounds to Mrs Janssen, a client usually buying meat or kerosene. This time she asks Hanneke to find a missing person – a person who had been previously hiding out in her hidden room because she was Jewish and the Gestapo police were rounding up all the Jewish people into the train to get slaughtered. “I need you to find her before the Nazis do,” Mrs. Janssen tells Hanneke urgently. 

In this novel, Hesse forces the reader to consider what they would do.  No one wants to get mixed up in a job that has risks of death. No one would want to let a girl die at the hands of the Nazis if they can stop it. No one wants to search for a girl who could have been rounded up onto the train weeks prior– paying with your life, for a life that might not exist. But sometimes that girl reminds you of your life before everything crumbled. Reminds you of your ex-best friend, of your dead boyfriend. Sometimes you walk straight in. This is what happens to Hanneke. 

Girl in the Blue Coat is packed with unexpected revelations about the missing girl at every turn. There are other revelations, too: Hanneke is recovering from the death of her would-be fiance, Bas. She’s dealing with the fact that she pushed him to go, even though he was scared. But she pushed him to go because who could ever imagine a world without Bas. Who could ever imagine moving on?

Hanneke has also lost her former best friend: they’ve gone from talking about day to day life on her bed, chatting casually while flipping through sleek thin magazines, to kicking her out, swearing to never seeing her again. Now they find themselves on the opposite sides of the war.

Hanneke is now tied into the center of this dark web involving a missing girl, betrayal from the closest of friends, a gunshot in the night, and a sacrifice gone unchecked. 

From the first page this book takes a dive into her struggles, her broken way of life. Readers learn that consequences are dire. Throughout the book there is never a shallow chapter that acts as a connector. Hanneke is constantly putting her life on the line for Mirjam–the missing girl– by finding and selling illegal merchandise, as well as attending secret resistance group meetings. Each chapter hooks on so well, it’s impossible to escape.  

You will want to just peek at the next chapter, but merely a couple words in, you will find yourself trapped.

Gigi

Little Brown, 301 pages


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