Friday, October 13, 2017

The House of Blood and Tears - Lenore Eidse

Summary: "She gazed at the majestic stone building from a distance; with the sun reflecting in the tall gabled windows, it was lovely enough to be a little palace. But appearance is deceiving; inside it was a chamber of evil."

In 1939, Hitler's invasion of Holland crashed like a thunderbolt upon the unsuspecting Dutch people. The dreaded word "Occupation" ruled their existence, but this family of three chose to defend the Motherland. Hillie worked as a double agent; shy, twelve year old Anje was a courier, and Jan became a collaborator. Secrets and lies, the concealment of Jews, Allied pilots in hiding, all were considered acts of treason which could condemn them in this notorious "House of Blood and Tears." The consequence of their involvement was costly in Hitler's Holocaust. A vivid history of World War II in the Netherlands, this is an amazing account of great courage and daring, with a surprise conclusion. (Summary and image from I was given a copy in exchange for an honest review.)

Review: Anje lived a near-idyllic life. Her parents spoiled her, her father’s best friend doted on her, life was good until the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. In the blink of an eye, her life changed permanently. Her father, a lover of the finest and the best, was caught embezzling funds to support his spending habits and found himself without a job. More and more he wasn’t home, leaving Anje and her mother Hillie alone to figure out food, safety, and financial security.  It wasn’t long before the pair decided to do whatever they could to drive the Nazis from their homeland, even if that meant participating in the Underground. 

The strength and tenacity of both Anje and Hillie are amazing. While this book is historical fiction, it is directly based on the life of Anje Minnes and her mother Hillie. Anje started acting as courier shortly after the Occupation and continued through the end of the war. Her mother, who not only found herself needing to support the family financially, also worked directly with the Underground, as well as posing as a double agent. Together they would deliver ration cards, rescue and aid downed pilots, help forge papers for fleeing citizens, hide Jews and place Jewish children in foster homes, and live with the constant fear that any moment, or any person, could bring disaster. 

Along with working for the Underground, these incredible ladies live in an occupied territory and have to struggle with all that entails. Danger doesn’t just come from discovery - it lurks in the darkened streets, wears the face of the neighbor across the way, or comes bringing famine.

While the story itself is incredible and deserves to be told, I had a difficult time with the writing. The writing was fairly immature, reading like an early-reader chapter book (lots of Hooray! or Boo! sentences, many short, minimally descriptive sentences that could have easily been fleshed out, and many instances of elementary paragraphs [A went here. B did that. C happened.]), and I felt like it detracted from the peril and suspense of the story. I feel like it would have been an easy thing to fix had an editor pointed it out, so that’s where I choose to lay the blame.  Despite the writing failings, I am glad this story fell into my hands. The strength, courage, and perseverance of Anje in the face of unspeakable tragedy and betrayal is one everyone ought to know. 

Going beyond the events of the Occupation, the reader is also privy to Anje’s life after the war, as well as how her actions during the Occupation blessed lives generations later. I won’t lie, I may have reared up reading the final chapters of the book.

Rating: Four stars (could have been five, but the writing needed some tightening up)

For the Sensitive Reader: Betrayal that no one should ever face, talk about soldiers raping Dutch women, talk of the torture that goes on in the House of Blood and Tears.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you very much for your honest review. Glad that you enjoyed the book despite some of its shortcomings. The bottom line is the fact that this was the life my mother lived as a young child and it continues to leave me in awe at the strength and determination she had at such a young age. My heart swells with pride and my eyes fill with tears when I think of all the sacrifices she made.

It is very sad to say that we paid thousands of dollars to the publishing company for an editor to review the writing prior to the book being published.

Again, thank you and I hope you will share the book with others.

Anje's daughter.....Joanne


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