Girl in the Blue Coat is a beautifully written, young adult book about a terrible moment in history- the German occupation of the Netherlands. Hanneke is a young woman who runs black market goods to people in her town not only so that her family can eat, but also to thumb her nose at the Nazis who have taken so much from her and her people. The mystery portion of the book begins when one of Hanneke’s clients asks her to find a Jewish girl who disappeared from the safe house where she had been hiding.
I found myself drawn into this story for many reasons. First, Hanneke is a strong, female protagonist who doesn’t wait for other people to solve her problems- I liked that. Also, Girl in the Blue Coat does an excellent job of keeping the reader guessing. Just when I thought I had things figured out, Hesse changed it up. In addition, I cared about the characters in the story and I wanted them to succeed. It reminded me a lot of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak- same time period, different country.
The strength of Hanneke: “I can feel myself getting sucked into this mystery… Maybe because it’s another way to flout the rules. But maybe because, in a country that has come to make no sense, in a world I cannot solve, this is a small piece that I can. pg 45-46
The complexity of Hanneke’s emotions in a world divided by war: “Here is the thing about my grief: It’s like a very messy room in a house where the electricity has gone out. My grief over Bas (young man she lost to the war) is the darkness. It’s the thing that’s most immediately wrong in the house. It’s the thing that you notice straight off. It covers everything else up. But if you could turn the lights back on, you would see there are lots of other things still wrong in the room. The dishes are dirty. There is mold in the sink. The rug is askew. Elsbeth (former best friend) is my askew rug. Elsbeth is my messy room. Elsbeth is the grief I would allow myself to feel, if my emotions weren’t so covered in darkness.” pg 104
Hanneke’s growing self awareness because of her struggles: “I watched a whole afternoon unfold under my nose, and I misread everything that was happening, from start to finish. All the clues were in front of me, but I still didn’t see them.” pg 125
How Hanneke’s country has changed because of the occupation: “The prisoners follow, carrying suitcases, disheveled and tired like they haven’t slept in days. The crowd is big, maybe seventy people, and the soldiers march them down the middle of the street. It’s a lovely winter day in Amsterdam, and though there are other people on the street, couples like me and Willem, nobody acts like the forced parade of people is out of the ordinary. Our sense of ordinary has become horrifying.” pg 212
If you enjoyed Girl in the Blue Coat, you may want to pick up The Book Thief by Markus Zusak or The Bishop’s Wife (Linda Wallheim Mystery, #1) by Mette Ivie Harrison. Thanks to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for the advance reader copy of this book. And, thank you for reading!