1940s Netherlands, Ilse struggles to find food and fuel to keep her aging parents alive as war grips their country. 2005 UK, Anna’s father dies and among his papers she discovers he was adopted. She sets off to find out the truth about his birth parents…
The Boy in the Attic is a dual timeline book set in the UK and the Netherlands in the 1940s and 2000s.
Both timelines have very emotional plotlines. Ilse’s family are suffering and desperate. The fear and dread are vividly brought to life through the descriptions of their circumstances. Anna is dealing with her grief at the death of her dad. I felt equally absorbed by the lives of both women as they deal with their own struggles.
The danger of the Ilse’s situation grows when she leaves home. She befriends a Jewish man Levi which puts her at risk due to the increased proximity and attention of the Nazi occupiers. The tension was maintained well as I awaited finding out how the past timeline linked up to the more modern one.
Meanwhile Anna finds herself increasingly distanced from her boyfriend Hugo both physically and emotionally. I was really annoyed with him (always a good sign when a book evokes a strong emotional response!) and was eager for her to find peace of mind in her relationship as well as in her quest to find her father’s family.
The Boy in the Attic is an interesting and emotional historical novel.
Anna opened the letter with trembling hands. ‘My darling, if you’re reading this, I haven’t managed to unravel my parents’ secret. But you can. Will you finish the search for me, find out who they were, and who you really are?’
Nazi-occupied Holland, 1944. As soldiers patrol the streets, nursing student Ilse is only just surviving the terrible famine and increasingly violent German occupation. Though exhausted by her demanding work at a hospital far from home, she can’t help but notice Levi, the young man with the dark eyes watching the world silently from the abandoned house next door.
Then, early one morning, she finds him terrified and trembling with cold on the back doorstep. Levi’s Jewish family have been arrested and sent to a concentration camp, their likely fate all too clear. And now he needs her help.
So Ilse makes the most dangerous decision of her life, and takes Levi in. Hiding him away in her tiny attic room, he must remain concealed or risk almost certain death. But as the war worsens, keeping Levi a secret becomes ever more difficult, even as their mutual affection grows. And when a local German soldier becomes obsessed with Ilse, they fear their time – and luck – has run out…
London, present day. When Anna’s father dies, he leaves her a ticket to Amsterdam, a bent silver sixpence on a delicate silver chain, and a note begging her to complete the journey he was never able to. To the town where he was born, to find out once and for all who his parents were, and to discover their wartime fate.
Based on the author’s incredible family history, a totally devastating and ultimately uplifting story about a girl who risked everything, including her life, to save the man she loved. Heart-breaking and timely, this powerful tale will be loved by fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, The Nightingale and Fiona Valpy.
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.