Monica Hesse’s ‘The Girl in the Blue Coat’ thrills

For those at all fascinated with World War 2, this book takes on a new perspective as it delves into the mystery of a young Jewish girl’s disappearance in Amsterdam.

This novel, “The Girl in the Blue Coat,” does very well with the mystery aspect of the story, though at 301 pages the story seems a little long and drawn out. 

While the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam is growing stronger, more Jewish people are being rounded up to be removed from the city and the resistance is working hard to find hiding places for them. After losing her family, one young girl hides with an elderly lady who was the wife of her father’s boss. After staying with the woman for a while, the young girl disappears and the woman has no idea how she got out of the house undetected. Worried, the old woman hires a delivery girl who delivers black market items to look for her, figuring she might have connections that could help.

The writing did not keep me interested enough where I felt I wanted to return to reading it after taking a break. Not that it wasn’t well written, it just didn’t seem all that inspiring to me.

Monica Hesse did her research for this novel in order to bring the story to life. Although the characters were fictional, this story was partially based on true events, which gives the writing a more non-fictional feel.

I found the characters in this book a little two-dimensional. I didn’t feel any of them were particularly brought to life in a way where I could sympathize with them beyond them being in a Nazi run city, though most dutch citizens didn’t feel like the Jewish population. Even the main protagonist seems a little underdeveloped.

As I write this, the day following my finishing of the book, I have already forgotten the lead character’s name and must thumb back through to find it. 

One character I thought to be a little more realistic and sympathetic in this book was Haneke’s mother. I felt like finally we had a worrying mother who had the right to worry and that, in itself, is more a comment on the setting than the character. 

Though the setting wasn’t overly produced in description, there was enough to picture it, and given the history of the place and World War II, it was unnecessary to over produce for visualization. 

The reveal of the mystery aspect truly comes toward the end of the book, which is the way it should be in my opinion. This novel gets you interested about two-thirds of the way through and you think the mystery is about to be solved when another road-block occurs.

To some degree, with mystery comes confusion. Subtle confusion will add mystery and Hesse does this by introducing letters from girls with different names than the girl our main protagonist is looking for. It’s hard to explain how this works, but in simple terms trying to keep track of who’s who diverts brain power from what may be more obvious clues. This allows the mystery aspect an opportunity to draw out.

This was a good novel overall with interesting aspects. The history was accurate and therefore intriguing and the plot was based to some degree on real events, making the story more interesting. It was simply written to follow easily yet advanced enough in style to not be boring, though this doesn’t change my earlier comment on the continue reading factor. It just lacked that cliff hanger feel.

I give this novel four out of five top hats.