Thank you to the author, publisher and Love Books Tours for the copy of this book in return for my honest opinion.
Let’s start with the blurb: Coming-of-age story set during the liberation of the Dutch East Indies.
At the end of the war, Nell is released from a Japanese internment camp in Java. While searching for her father in the chaos, she meets Tim, a young man who is looking for his family too. Nell’s journey takes her first to Singapore then to a new life and new friends in Sydney, Australia. But although Tim may well be the love of her life, her father puts her on a passenger liner bound for the Netherlands. Will Nell really be able to settle in a country she’s never known – and will she ever see Tim again?
Based on the true story of Nora Valk, this is an exciting tale of courage and friendship, hope and determination, about the search for love and a place to finally call home.
Here’s my review: I found this book a fascinating insight into a part of history I know very little about. It’s told in the first person perspective of Nell, and the reader is with her as she and Auntie Karly are the first to walk out of the internment camp at the end of the war. The scene in which she is torn between looking back at the field in which her mother is buried one last time, and fear that if she looks back she will be shot by a Japanese guard, is still on my mind.
There were times when I rolled my eyes at Nell’s moods, impatience or outbursts but that made me identify with her more, having a teenager myself! Plus she had been held captive for three years so naturally she would be frustrated at the pace of life returning to a new normal.
Her relationship with her father is a complex one and the author portrayed Nell’s confused emotions between her idealised memory of her father and the reality. There were times when I struggled with her father’s actions but he had been a prisoner of war, so would clearly be dealing with his own adaptation to reality too.
The pages flew by for me and I was reminded of One Day in the way the narrative would pick up after a new direction in Nell’s life had been revealed. Beautifully translated by Ernestine Hoegen