Review of Fing's War

Fing’s War
by Benny Lindelauf; trans. from the Dutch by John Nieuwenhuizen
Intermediate, Middle School    Enchanted Lion    411 pp.
6/19    978-1-59270-269-5    $16.95

This sequel to Nine Open Arms (rev. 9/14) falls into two parts. In the early chapters we follow the fortunes and adventures of the Boon family, in 1938 Netherlands, from the viewpoint of the young teen daughter Fing. It’s a classic family story, with seven siblings, an impractical dreamer father, and a stern grandmother. Episodic, its comical incidents have the smooth polish of oft-told family or village anecdotes. Dotted with such middle-grade tropes as domestic disasters, a poor little rich girl, and a false accusation of theft, the plot is pulled along by Fing’s dream of education even as she is sent out to work at age fourteen. But as the war impinges more and more on village life, the narrative tone darkens, and the stakes increase exponentially. Lindelauf does a stunning job of showing the difficult relationships that war creates and the moral complexity of defining enemy and friend. The wicked Blackshirt? The Jewish victim? The Dutch resistance hero? Yes, but each of these characters is subtle and surprising, and the text asks for a reader willing to consider these nuances. Played out in a suspenseful plot with plenty of action, this story is a welcome and distinctive addition to the literature of the Second World War for young people. A substantial “Slang Words and Character List” is included to support a text that is rich with words in German, Yiddish, and Limburgish (the language spoken in the family’s Dutch province), but the story itself does a fine job of illuminating these terms in context.

From the November/December 2019 Horn Book Magazine.

Sarah Ellis
Sarah Ellis is a Vancouver-based writer and critic, recently retired from the faculty of The Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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