Lead Review (The Girl With the Red Hair)

  • Book: The Girl with the Red Hair
  • Location: Amsterdam, Haarlem
  • Author: Buzzy Jackson

Review Author: Tina Hartas

Location

Content

Tagline: The greatest hero of the Second World War . . . is a girl you’ve never heard of

There’s been quite a vogue for books with titles beginning, “The Girl…” but don’t let that put you off this superb book. The Girl With The Red Hair is a fictionalised account of a true story; the wartime activities of a female resistance fighter in the Netherlands, Hannie Schaft; her heroic deeds and her youthful love for Jan Bonekamp, the man who trained her. The author has drawn on first-person accounts and meticulous research to provide a thrilling, shocking account of how it was to live under Nazi occupation, while secretly risking your life to subvert the occupiers’ activities. This book is likely to appeal to readers who enjoy historical fiction, thrillers, family sagas and romance alike. One for many tastes!

What would you do if an enemy invader occupied your city and turned your life upside down? Could you take action to fight back? Could you kill to defend your country? Sadly these aren’t hypothetical questions for many people, even today, and they weren’t for Hannie Schaft when the Germans arrived in Amsterdam during World War Two. At first there was general resentment, as daily life almost imperceptibly altered, but soon the Dutch attitudes changed to active resistance on an organised basis. A secret, underground resistance movement was born.

Nineteen-year-old Hannie was a clever, ambitious girl studying law in Amsterdam when the Germans arrived. Unable to continue her studies, she volunteered to help with a refugee project where she encountered the redoubtable Nurse Dekker. Soon she was carrying out little ‘missions’, such as secretly delivering packages, under Dekker’s instructions. As a young girl, she attracted little attention and she enjoyed the thrill it brought. As things got worse in the city, and Dekker disappeared, Hannie realised that she was much better off than her Jewish friends, Sonja and Philene. When news reached them of an internment camp, of Jews being removed and never returning, she decided it was up to her to rescue her friends and the three escaped to her home town of Haarlem. Before long, Hannie was approached by Dekker’s resistance contacts and a whole new landscape of risk opened up before her.

Buzzy Jackson began the writing of The Girl With The Red Hair with a wish to portray the work of Hannie Schaft in a truthful way – but this is more than an historical account, it’s a gripping read that you’ll want to follow to the end. The author portrays Hannie as someone who is ultimately courageous, clever and with a strong sense of doing what she believes to be right, whatever that might be. She’s far from dull, however. We see her questioning and justifying her actions, trying to solve conflicts in her own mind, but ultimately training herself to act as the situation demands. Her skill in remaining undetected was key to her success, as was the organisation of the Dutch resistance into small cells, preserving the identities of those the enemy would dearly love to capture and eliminate. But witnesses had seen Hannie during her missions and she became widely known as the mysterious ‘girl with the red hair’. As the allied forces approach, all that was needed was to hold out and trust that she wouldn’t be betrayed by those she knew and loved.

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