Today I’m pleased to share my book review for a historical fiction novel The Hidden Village by Imogen Matthews.
Book Review: The Hidden Village by Imogen Matthews
Title: The Hidden Village
Author: Imogen Matthews
Genre: Historical fiction
Release Date: 17th Jan 2022
A Nazi soldier slams his rifle into her father’s head. From her hiding place, Sofie stifles a scream as tears roll down her face. Suddenly she can’t take it any more. ‘Stop, stop!’ she sobs, rushing out and pushing the soldier away. And then freezes, as he snarls and whips the gun round to point at her…
Holland, 1943: the Nazis are in occupation. German soldiers patrol the streets, and each week more families disappear without trace, never to be seen again. So when armed soldiers storm Sofie’s house and threaten her father at gunpoint, she knows their time – and luck – has run out.
Fleeing in the middle of the night to hide in a neighbour’s secret attic, the constant threat of a German raid means they can’t stay long. So Sofie’s parents make the heart-rending decision to send their daughter away. Concealed in the woods is a secret village, built by the town as a haven for Jewish families like Sofie’s. Remote, cold and bleak, yet filled with the hopeful laughter of children playing, it is the one place Sofie has the chance to live.
But rumours of the hidden village have been swirling, and the Nazis are determined to find it. As soldiers patrol the woods in ever-greater numbers, snow cuts the villagers off from the outside world and starvation sets in. Sofie knows what she must do, even though it means putting herself in danger. And when the worst happens, Sofie is faced with a terrible decision – save the village, or save herself…
An absolutely heart-breaking and gripping WWII historical novel based on the true story of an entire town who put themselves in danger to keep strangers safe. What happens will restore your faith in humanity. Fans of Fiona Valpy, The Tattooist of Auschwitz and The Choice will never forget this incredibly moving tale and the real-life heroes who inspired it.
It is not often I read historical fiction unless it is in a dual timeline, but this book begged to be read. A friend has Norwegian roots and listening to her family stories made me interested in reading more about this time. The Hidden Village threw me straight into the action with children playing innocently and Germans approaching the village. I continued reading with a sense of trepidation because we all know the atrocities they bring with them.
Told in third person, this story focuses on three main characters; young Jan who is still in his childhood but longs to be seen as older, Sofie a teenager whose future is looking bright until she is forced to hide and Sara Jan’s mother, whose husband helps set up the hidden village. The three viewpoints give a good overview of life because of their different stages of their lives and place in the community. Through Sofie’s eyes we see live in the forest, Sara experiences the goings on in the town battling to keep the Jews safe and Jan is a go between connecting the two.
Community is a key theme in this novel and despite the never ending threat of discovery, it was uplifting to read how powerful this sense of community was, which enabled the village to stay safe and fed during this time. Though the novel was harrowing in places, it was never graphic in it’s portrayal of the Nazi brutality and relied on the reader’s imagination and description of the sounds of hobnailed boots on floorboards to rank up the tension.
The villagers’ loss of liberty and possessions and having to rebuild a community made me reflect on the important things in my life and be more grateful for what I have.
Would I recommend?
Yes, The Hidden Village gives a fascinating insight into life in Holland during the second World War and shows the horror of the time and the courage displayed by those who stood up against the evil of the Nazi regime. It is uplifting and shows love, and everyday things and emotions still occurred despite the dangerous threat of discovery. Perfect for those who love historical fiction and WW2 memoirs.
Imogen Matthews writes novels based on true stories about the Netherlands during the German occupation in World War 2. Some stories she discovered by chance, others are based on her Dutch mother’s own experiences of hardship and survival during the Hunger Winter of 1944-45.
Her first novel, The Hidden Village, is set in the Veluwe woods, a beautiful part of Holland that Imogen has visited frequently over the past 30 years. It was in these woods that she discovered the story of the real hidden village which provided shelter in underground huts for Jews during WW2. Imogen retells the story of the hidden village with characters drawn from real life and from her imagination.
Within weeks of publication in 2017, The Hidden Village became an international bestseller, ranking at the top of a number Amazon’s most-read book lists.
Following on from The Hidden Village comes Hidden in the Shadows, which has the pace of a thriller yet is also a love story. It tells the story about two young people who are brutally torn apart and must find a way to be together against all odds.
Imogen’s third WW2 novel, The Girl Across the Wire Fence, is set in Amersfoort, Netherlands, and is based on the unforgettable tale of two young lovers who risked everything to keep hope alive in the very depths of hell – the little known Dutch concentration camp called Kamp Amersfoort.
Imogen’s WW2 novels are published by Bookouture, a digital imprint of Hachette.
Learn more about Imogen’s story in this video: https://youtu.be/2YO0IWJSjj0
Author social media
Thank you Bookouture for inviting me to this tour and providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.