The Dutch Wife – Ellen Keith

“Witness our judgement without judgement.”

Amsterdam 1943 – Marijke de Graaf and her husband have just been arrested by the Nazis for being part of the Dutch Resistance and thus begins a tale of horrifying choices for Marijke.  She is sent to a labour camp and then given the choice of staying in the camp and most likely dying there or of going to a different camp to work in a brothel as a prostitute to reward the camp’s workers for their efforts. She chooses the brothel as she thinks her husband is at that camp and she will be able to find him.

Karl Muller is the SS officer who comes to the camp to live up to his father’s expectations of him and his military career.  As Karl grapples with the horrors of the torture and punishment he is to oversee he discovers Marijke and changes her life.

Paralleling this is the story of Luciano. Luciano is arrested in 1977 in Argentina during the Argentinian Dirty War. He is imprisoned, tortured but still manages to find the courage to resist the oppressive regime in any small way he can.

Woven into this story are the lives of three people who are connected by choices and their consequences.

Marijke: to have to make the choice of being a prostitute, to have feelings for someone who epitomizes evil, and to pay a penance

Karl: To lose his moral centre, to hate yet not want to hate, to not stand up for what he believes in knowing what he’s done is wrong and to pay a huge penance

Luciano: the hero who wants his father’s acceptance, for his father to see his worth and courage and who pays for everyone’s sins

This is an incredibly well written story that follows you after you’ve finished like a stray cat asking, “Who are you to judge?” and “What would you do?”

Stars: 5+

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