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review 2019-12-31 17:12
Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II - Robert Matzen
Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II - Robert Matzen

Biographies are not usually my thing, and biographies of celebrities even less so. Most peoples lives are terribly interesting, and the risk of learning something truly off-putting is high. So for the most part I'm a enjoy their art or athleticism or moment in history and move on, unknowing.
Like much of humanity who's seen her movies, I like Audrey Hepburn: so lovely, so stylish, willing to use her fame and popularity on behalf of the world's most desperate children. But I knew pretty much nothing about her life. Until recently I didn't know she was from the Kingdom of the Netherlands or that she had been associated with the Resistance during the war. Audrey Hepburn: Girl Spy sounds great but it rather overstates the case. Matzen doesn't oversell it. He's quite clear that she spent most of the war shy, lonely, and only interested in dance.
What her wartime experiences illustrate isn't tales of great daring and glamour, but the quiet day to day heroism of people under occupation, trying to carry on with their lives despite deprivations and ever-present danger.
There are interesting similarities between this and A Castle in Wartime. The Nazis were keen on holding hostages. Hepburn's family was not rich, but her mother was a Baroness and a fool. She was very keen on fascism and Nazis and Hitler's great charm right up until the Netherlands were invaded and people she cared for started dying. Hepburn's mother had rather a bad time of it after liberation when her earlier warmth to the occupiers was closely examined. While it is morally important to prosecute war criminals I'm not sure that it is any sort of deterrent and certainly shaming women for attention received from the occupiers is just mean and vindictive.
War is hell. It is particularly hell for the women and children starving and freezing in bombed-out cities like Arnhem or Aleppo. It's not surprising the Hepburn would become an ambassador for children for UNICEF. She never forgot what she had lived through and what it meant to her to receive aid at a most desperate time. In her honor I am donating to UNICEF today on behalf of all the children who have been refused a home or help when they needed it to survive. Donations made today will be tripled.

Library copy

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review 2019-12-23 08:13
Dutch Girl
Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II - Robert Matzen

Somehow I had completely missed that Audrey Hepburn was Dutch and lived there during the second world war. The recent publication Dutch Girl was about to set that straight.

I've seen some reviewers complain that the book was too much about life in the Netherlands during the second world war and not enough about Audrey herself, but I disagree on that account. Not only did I find that was the most interesting part of the book (being Dutch myself), I also believed the broader context is necessary to understand this part of her life.

However, at some points I had the feeling the story dragged a bit, and it maybe would have been better if  a little bit shorter. But overall an interesting read.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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