It has been available in translation since 1960, but I never picked it up until this year. I read one disparaging review on the reading website "goodreads" and would like to answer some of the criticisms:
- "The characters were non-realistic and too good to be true."
When the book was written in the 1950's, it employed a style that was perhaps more interested in showing virtuous people than novels are today. However, the types of things that John DeBoer, his father and other members of the resistance do in the novel have been attested by many sources. This type of heroism is not too good to be true.
- "They also had too much luck."
The author is writing from a point of view that presupposes the sovereignty and providence of God. When characters have a narrow escape, they recognize that God was with them, not luck. When a reader does not share this outlook, it can appear that such things could not really happen. As well, this book will befuddle the reader who does not believe in moral absolutes or divine justice.
- "Moreover the writing style was too abrupt."
Perhaps some of the criticism of writing style lies with the translation. Mr. der Nederlanden translated it over 50 years ago; as such some of the language and style may be dated. Being a translator is not easy, especially with creative writing, so I am willing to overlook some of these shortcomings.
- "Anyone could have written this book."
I strongly disagree. The author shows a thorough understanding of the Dutch people, according to its various regions, the variations between cityfolk and farmers, the tension between those who collaborated with the Nazis and those who resisted. One town mentioned frequently in the book is "Assen," which is also the author's home town. The setting is authentic as are the accounts.
What I appreciated most about the novel was the coverage of the first several days of occupation. In history books it receives just a few sentences, as if the Dutch surrendered immediately. The novel describes how everyday people had to cope with desperate times and the types of measures used to try to stop or slow the progress of the German occupation.
When the novel described the liberation of the northern provinces and pointed out that North and South Holland had to wait until May 5th, it had a personal connection. My relatives lived in South Holland, near Rotterdam. One of my uncles was born nine days after the liberation, so my grandmother did not have access to all the healthy food needed for the baby's development. He was slow to develop and could not walk until he was two years old. When I think about that, I am truly amazed that my uncle later did well in a Canadian schools, started his own business and is now the father of three adult children. Where we start does not need to dictate where we will finish. Thanks be to God!