Published by Gallimard jeunesse, A girl in a blue coat is a historical novel set in the heart of the occupation in Holland during World War II. Journalist at Washington post, the author, Monica hesse, accurately recreates the historical context of the time in a captivating plot and a moving initiating quest.
1943, Amsterdam. Hanneke is a particularly resourceful young girl. Cycling the streets of the city occupied by the German army, she provides for her family through the black market. One day, she receives a very special request from one of her clients: to find Mirjam, a Jewish teenager who has strangely disappeared from her hiding place. The only clue: she was wearing a blue coat. Then begins an intense and poignant investigation where time is a crucial element: the Nazis are also looking for it.
When reading this historical novel, how can we not think of Anne Frank and her diary? The references and similarities are eminently present as the author confirms to us at the end of the book. Monica Hesse powerfully describes the context of the German occupation. It makes us discover the Dutch resistance and its networks of mutual aid to the Jews while plunging us into a quest in the heart of the cobbled streets of Amsterdam. Because it is a real quest for his heroine, Hanneke. At first intrigued and even amused by what she considers a puzzle to be solved, she is quickly confronted with the reality of Nazi horror. Hanneke has no choice but to question the need to act, to react when it would have been easier to ignore. Why find a young girl she doesn't know on behalf of a person she hardly knows anymore? Why not just close your eyes? Why risk his life and that of his family? Why revive the deep, barely closed wounds of mourning? And even why help this stranger when you can help many other people who are just as much in danger?
Throughout the pages, we witness the transformation of a young girl consumed with guilt, clinging to a few meager dreams and illusions into a courageous and selfless adult. And this transformation is all the stronger as it blends perfectly with the almost detective plot. Indeed, in a fluid and energetic style, Monica Hesse gives her story the right amount of suspense, tension and darkness to keep young and old readers on their toes. A great success to discover from 13 years old.
Monica Hesse, A Girl with a Blue Coat, Gallimard Jeunesse, Paris, 2016.