Publisher and Publication Date: Park Row Books. September 4, 2018.
Genre: Historical fiction. WW2. Holocaust.
Audience: Historical fiction readers of WW2.
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The story begins in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. 1943.
Marijke de Graaf, and her husband, Theo, are both arrested by the Gestapo and sent to camps. Marijke is at Ravensbruck. Her husband is sent to another camp.
Marijke is singled out with other attractive young women for a chance to survive in another type of “climate.” They are given the opportunity to work in a brothel as prostitutes in a different camp. They will be housed in a better place. They will be given better food with more portions. They will be regularly checked by camp doctors. They will be asked to perform as prostitutes for the camp inmates.
Marijke wants to find Theo. They are a young married couple. They are in love.
Marijke accepts this job. She tells herself it is to survive and find Theo.
After Marijke’s arrival at the camp, she is given a few days to settle.
Meanwhile, a new commander arrives at the camp. His name is Karl Muller. He is young and handsome. He is a staunch believer in Nazism.
Muller is immediately attracted to Marijke. They have a pseudo relationship.
Added to the book is another time period and another story. It is the story of Luciano Wagner. He lives in Argentina in the late 1970s.
*Possibly giving away too much about the story. Forgive me.
There are more things I dislike about the book than like.
1. I dislike the dual time period. I am seeing this too much in historical fiction and it has become boring.
2. I dislike the addition to the book of Luciano Wagner. He is introduced in chapter three. I spent most of the book wondering why he is in the book? What is the purpose? Does he matter to the whole of the story? Do I care?
3. In other books with a woman who becomes involved with a Nazi, the Nazi is almost always a reluctant Nazi. There is something in his behavior that gives him attributes of compassion, tenderness, and a willingness to help. Karl Muller is not this kind of person. As a result, there are several disadvantages given to Karl and Marijke’s relationship. One of them is their relationship is a fake. I feel no pull to read their storyline. When they are together it doesn’t hold my attention.
4. Theo is at the beginning of the story, but then he is gone, except in Marijke’s memories. If he had been more in the development of the story (his plight), I might have become invested in their outcome. After-all, Theo is the motivator for Marijke.
5. I feel the plot/storyline is a difficult one to engage the reader. A group of women who are prostitutes for the camp inmates, and because of their job their sexual acts are just acts. The women stare off into space-they check out. Some make a joke about it. Others are sickened. Their attitude and behavior is mechanical which makes their story feel mechanical. It doesn’t come across on page well. The one point that impacted me is the soreness of Marijke. Her private area is sore from having had so many clients-up to 8 per night. I want to have empathy and become invested (swept-away) in the story, but it comes across as a mechanic representation.
What I like about the story is the style of writing. I noticed instead of lengthy pages with descriptive writing, there is condensed, strong, and vivid sentences.
One thought on “(Review) The Dutch Wife by Ellen Keith”
Like you, I’m getting sick of the duo timelines. Just too many historical novels are using them now, though the trope itself isn’t necessarily bad. Also, even if this book looks interesting, I’ll probably pass. I don’t mind Nazi romances if, like you said, the Nazi himself/herself is reluctant, like in Suite Francaise. But the idea of it being fake, seems not to align with my reading tastes. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I’m always looking for new historical books to read.
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