DUTCH GIRL: #AudreyHepburn and WWII by Robert Matzen — book review

Audrey Hepburn fans, are you ready for this?

I hereby give DUTCH GIRL –Audrey Hepburn and World War II

by bestselling biographer Robert Matzen five stars.

Disclaimer: I received this wonderful arc of DUTCH GIRL from the publicist. On a whim, I contacted Mr. Matzen, as I have read every Audrey bio from Barry Paris (“Hepburn’s definitive biographer,” as Matzen puts it, and I fully agree.), Spoto, Maychick, –the list goes on, including her sons’ books: AUDREY HEPBURN, AN ELEGANT SPIRIT (Sean Ferrer) and AUDREY AT HOME: MEMORIES OF MY MOTHER’S KITCHEN (Luca Dotti). In fact, I even read Cornelius Ryan’s A BRIDGE TOO FAR, about the WWII Battle of Arnhem, in an attempt to “unite the dots” as Dotti writes in his heartfelt Foreword of Matzen’s book.

Do you know how thrilled I was to get this book?

And I was not disappointed.

DUTCH GIRL is a moving, fascinating, factual account of young Audrey’s life during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. To those who usually gravitate to novels or Audrey movies, I say take this non-fiction detour.

No, it’s not Breakfast At Tiffany’s –but I will note that Holly Golightly and Audrey are very much alike in their scrappy determination to survive and succeed. No, it is not My Fair Lady, although I would be willing to bet Audrey could relate to Eliza Doolittle’s frustration in re-learning speech patterns to reinvent herself. In a way, the war years depicted in DUTCH GIRL were Audrey’s acting teachers. Most definitely they are key to understanding her passion and determination as UNICEF ambassador.

DUTCH GIRL follows two other Matzen books that delve into WWII connections of classic Hollywood stars: Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe; and Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 — GoodKnight Books. I am amazed at the compilation of original sources, diaries, and interviews that offer incredible insight into the life of this young girl who became Audrey Hepburn.

“a riveting and gut-wrenching story of a remarkable human being.”

I was part way through the book when we left for vacation and I took it with me because I couldn’t put it down. When I was done, my husband read it. In his words, it’s “a riveting and gut-wrenching story of a remarkable human being.”

In DUTCH GIRL, I not only found those missing pieces left out of previous biographies, I found myself rethinking my perspective on WWII. Gone was the notion that such a war could be boiled down to good vs. bad –although in the case of the world vs. Hitler, this is apt. In Audrey’s world, however, the lines of war were not as clear. Audrey’s experience, like so many others in war, was families torn apart, trapped in fear, chaos, and a deprivation that no one ever asked for–and yet finding a way to keep going. Her experiences are as relevant today as they were over 75 years ago.

So, yes, my friends, I recommend this book.

Brief unsolicited plug: DUTCH GIRL is available for pre-order now and releases next month–on April 15th.

Read it. Share it. Talk about it.

This year, May 5th would have marked Audrey’s 90th birthday. In my mind, I can think of no better tribute to her spirit than the release of Robert Matzen’s DUTCH GIRL.

 

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