About the Book
Wartime Holland. Who can you trust?
Deep in the Veluwe woods lies a secret that frustrates the Germans. Convinced that Jews are hiding close by they can find no proof. The secret is Berkenhout, a purpose-built village of huts sheltering dozens of persecuted people.
Young tearaway Jan roams the woods looking for adventure and fallen pilots. His dream comes true when he stumbles across an American airman, Donald C. McDonald. But keeping him hidden sets off a disastrous chain of events.
Sofie, a Jewish Dutch girl, struggles to adapt to living in Berkenhout, away from her family and friends. As weeks turn to months, she’s worried they’ll abandon her altogether.
Henk Hauer, head woodman, is in charge of building the underground huts and ensuring the Berkenhout inhabitants stay safe. But many grow suspicious of his liaisons with the Germans. Is he passing on secret information that could endanger lives?
All it takes is one small fatal slip to change the course of all their lives for ever.
Format: ebook (374 pages) Publisher: Amsterdam Publishers Publication date: 18th May 2017 Genre: Historical Fiction
Find The Hidden Village on Goodreads
The story of the Berkenhout village hidden deep within the Veluwe forest is a fascinating one. In telling the story, the author has chosen to focus on some of the young people caught up in the undertaking, either those involved in helping to sustain the village, such as Jan and his brother Oscar, or those living there, such as Sofie. Therefore it’s only natural that much of the story is dominated by their teenage preoccupations – the strain on friendships, separation from family members, the limitations on their freedom and the drudgery of daily chores, such as fetching food and water.
Although other readers may feel differently, personally I would have welcomed a little more detail about the construction of the village. Initially, I found it hard to picture what the huts looked like, what they must have been like to live in and how a community housing so many people could remain undiscovered. The photographs on the author’s website helped greatly in this respect.
What wasn’t difficult to appreciate was the courage of the local people involved in supplying the village. Their willingness to take strangers into their homes, knowing the risks involved should they be discovered, was inspiring. I enjoyed finding out about the ingenious hiding places and how they rehearsed procedures in the event of an unexpected raid by the Germans.
I found the pacing of the book a little uneven. Having proceeded at a measured pace, dramatic and life-changing events affecting some of the characters and the village as a whole were wrapped up very quickly in the last few chapters. Although the epilogue provided closure in relation to some characters and storylines, I was left with unanswered questions about others. However, perhaps the author has saved the answers to those for the sequel, Hidden in the Shadows (published in December 2019). Look out for my review of it as part of the blog tour in May 2020.
By the way, if you’d like to find out more about how Imogen came to write the book, check out her guest post from July 2017 hosted by Sonia at A Lover of Books. You can also see the photographs of the hidden village mentioned above.
The Hidden Village is a fascinating story of wartime courage, ingenuity and community spirit. My thanks to the author for my digital copy of the book and for her patience in waiting for it to reach the top of my review pile.
In three words: Emotional, intimate, inspiring
Try something similar: A Quiet Genocide by Glenn Bryant
About the Author
Imogen Matthews lives in Oxford, England and is the author of two romantic fiction e-novels. The Hidden Village is her first foray into historical fiction.
Born in Rijswijk, Holland, to a Dutch mother and English father, the family moved to England when Imogen was very young. She has always enjoyed holidays in Holland and since 1990 has gone regularly with her husband and two children to Nunspeet on the edge of the Veluwe woods. It was here that she discovered the story of the hidden village and, together with her mother’s vivid stories of life in WW2 Holland, she was inspired to write her next novel, Hidden in the Shadows. (Photo credit: author website)