Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Close Look at WWII: The Occupied Garden

My favorite types of history books tell what life was like for individuals as the vast sweep of history passes across nations.  The Occupied Garden: A Family Memoir of War-Torn Holland has a thin viewpoint; the lives of the author's grandparents and their children during the German occupation of the Netherlands.  Kristen den Hartog and Tracy Kasaboski never asked their Oma and Opa about their war time experiences during their lives, but decades later they became fascinated with this family history and devoted themselves to finding out as much as they could about those years.  They interviewed the five siblings (dad, aunt, and three uncles) over and over again, using the memories from one to trigger more information from another.  They went to Holland to pour over archives and interview more relatives, neighbors, and friends.  The result is a detailed book that both conveys the hardships of the war years and the strains and strengths of a devout Dutch family.

Occasionally the story pulls back to look at Queen Wilhelmina's actions, which gives a chance for more of an overview of the course of the war and events on a wider scale.  Even this feels intimate, since Gerrit and Cor often have a child matching ages with the Queen's grandchildren, and the author uses this connection to move between them.  The focus is on family, and the details of the strict and unsentimental child raising philosophy drew me in as much as the worries about food, bombs, and resistance fighting.  

I found this book through den Hartog's blog, and now I'm very inclined to pick up some of her fiction titles.  A-


kmitcham said...

that sounds cool

Beth said...

I have a new catchphrase which the kids really hate: "You don't eat it because it tastes good." It would probably make more sense if they'd ever gone hungry.