Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley
When Yoel Blum breaks a promise to his dead mother by traveling to Amsterdam to celebrate the Dutch translation of one of his books, he does not know what path he has started to trod on.
Blum was born during the Second War when the Nazis occupied the Netherlands. His family lived in the Netherlands. His discovery of a family secret leads to an extended stay in the country as well as discovery aspects of himself that he though long dead. The story is told through Blum’s writing of a novel as well as his own mediations and experiences.
The best part of the book are the sections where Blum interacts with Amsterdam and his family. The book that he is writing is, the story of his family, is less engrossing. In part, this is because the family secret is easy to figure out. But the beauty of the writing in describing Blum’s internal conflict – not only with his newly discovered past but also with his present life.
The work is also a mediation of the effects of the Holocaust on those generation of adults who were hidden as children who faced not only the dangers of survival but also the trauma of being left by and then reunited with family. Elon also ties into the effect on the families of the present. It is this reason why Blum’s relationship with his family feels far more interesting than the plot set in WWII Amsterdam. Though to give Elon credit she does highlight the more common Dutch story than the one that everyone knows about Anne Frank.
Elon also writes Amsterdam extremely well. The descriptions of Blum walking though the city are beautifully written.