I've been very excited to read this book, being both a massive Audrey Hepburn fan, and a bit of a World War Two history buff!
Whilst most people are aware that Audrey grew up in Nazi occupied Holland, her reluctance to talk about this aspect of her life led many biographers to gloss over it. However, as author Robert Matzen realised, to understand what happened during the Second World War is to understand Audrey and her views about life.
Audrey lived through the Nazi occupation, the Battle of Arnhem and the hunger winter of 1944. She lost close family and friends, and many times her own life was in danger. I really hadn't realised just how close the battle was to her home, and how relentlessly and devastatingly her village was bombed.
Matzen's book is meticulously researched, he's cleared up many points that were either hinted at, or ignored, in previous Audrey biographies-such as her involvement with the resistance, her parents stance on the war, and her family background. We learn about her difficult, but close, relationship with her mother, her passionate dedication to ballet and her work helping in a hospital run by the Dutch resistance.
|Audrey with her mother Ella Van Heemstra, 1942|
|Audrey with her beloved Aunt Meisje and Uncle Otto|
Many of Audrey's experiences were incredibly harrowing and traumatic but she retained her love of dance, children and nature. Matzen does a wonderful job of setting the scene, he tries to make you feel as if you are experiencing the sights and sounds of battle, and I think this is crucial in trying to understand just what it was Audrey lived through as a young woman.
Audrey experienced so much in her early years, more than many experience in a lifetime, but despite the horrors she saw, she remained a loving and kindhearted person, devoted to helping others, I have so much respect for how she lived her life, she really was a special soul.
I recommend this book to anyone who may wish to learn more about Audrey, Dutch Girl, does an amazing job of highlighting an essential part of her life story.
|Audrey dancing in 1942|
"There's a curious thing about pain. In the beginning, it's an enemy, it's something that you don't want to face or think about or deal with. Yet with time it becomes almost a friend. If you've lost someone you love very much, in the beginning you can't bear it, but as the years go by, the pain of losing them is what reminds you so vividly of them-that they were alive. My experiences and the people I lost in the war remain so vivid to me because of the pain."
-Audrey, p. 105
"I don't think you ever forget anything, totally, but life, and especially time, gives you a way to deal with it, to live with it. I have a good cry every so often, like everyone else."
-Audrey, p. 150
"My childhood in Arnhem and in Velp was the most important part of my youth, I was ten when the Germans invaded the Netherlands and I was fifteen when it was all over. They were very delicate, precious years. I experienced a lot then, but it was not all misery. The circumstances brought family and friends closer together. You ate the last potatoes together."
-Audrey, p. 236
|Audrey's wartime identity card|