1944 Netherlands. A prison becomes a concentration camp. A young couple offer hope to the inmates by smuggling letters and parcels past the guards. But danger lurks and no good deeds go unpunished…
The Girl Across The Wire Fence is an historical novel set during WW2 in Nazi-occupied Netherlands. It is based on a true story which adds an extra poignancy to the plot and characters.
Frans is a 16 year old farm boy who is exempt from conscription to the German army or factories due to his essential work. Saskia is his girlfriend whose family look Jewish and are persecuted despite their papers. Theo becomes an inmate of Kamp Amersfoort due to his mistaken attendance at an anti Nazi meeting.
Together the trio offer hope to the prisoners as they smuggle and distribute letters and parcels. The tension is apparent and thoroughly described over the developments of the book. The author doesn’t shy away from the brutality of the camp but it is not shown in graphic detail.
Theo grapples with his morality as he is forced to work alongside the Nazis whilst undermining them to help the other inmates. I liked the emotion and realism of the characters which really brought them to life and made me care about them.
I found the ending a little abrupt and would have liked more of Saskia’s perspective especially due to her circumstances in the final chapters. There are lovely details about characters we have met over the course of the book which lightens the tone so that the book ends on a note of hope.
The Girl Across The Wire Fence is an engaging and interesting novel about the Dutch situation during the war.
1944, Amersfoort Concentration Camp, Holland. Based on a true story, the unforgettable tale of two young lovers who risked everything to keep hope alive in the very depths of hell.
On a cold, dark day in a tiny Dutch village, Saskia and her boyfriend Frans watch as Nazi soldiers force thousands of prisoners towards Amersfoort Concentration Camp. Their hearts break as they see the desperate faces of innocent men and women and realise that the war is closer to them than it’s ever been before…
Saskia’s father’s shop is raided when the guards suspect that he is Jewish, and Frans is soon forced to enter the concentration camp every day to collect scraps of food as it’s the only way to feed the animals on his family’s farm. But despite the growing fear the couple feel, when a prisoner begs Frans to send a letter to his beloved reassuring her he is alive, they know they must risk everything to help him. They smuggle his letter out, right under the noses of the Nazis. And eventually they ferry hundreds of messages for prisoners, bringing them hope in the darkest moments of their lives. But every letter Frans gets out of the camp puts him in even more danger.
Every reply Saskia manages to collect is a risk. Then Saskia is led into Kamp Amersfoort and is forced to wear a yellow star.
Inside, she cannot ignore the pain of the other prisoners, and Frans knows she will be putting herself in more danger to help them – attracting the attention of the guards. The couple know they must act. Everyone says it’s impossible to escape the camp, but it’s the only option they have left. Their love has kept them together but is it enough to help them survive?
A gripping story of love, betrayal and courage. Readers of The Tattooist of Auschwitz,The Nightingale and anything by Fiona Valpy will never forget this heartbreakingly beautiful novel and the great sacrifices Saskia and Frans made to change the fate of the world.
Imogen Matthews is an Oxford-based, award-winning author and journalist with an interest in forgotten stories from WW2 Holland. Imogen was born in Rijswijk, Holland, to a Dutch mother and English father who moved the family to England when Imogen was very young. All her life, she listened to her mother’s stories about her life in Holland, in particular the hardships she faced during the Hunger Winter in 1944-5, which has had a profound impact on her writing.