The Dutch Wife by Ellen Keith, Narrators: Abby Craden, Eric Martin, Charlie Thurston

Published September 4th 2018 by Harlequin Audio

4.5 Stars:


I had the kindle version of this book as well as a physical book on my bookshelf, but when I saw that it was available on Overdrive from my library, I chose to listen to this one. I really liked the narration of this story. I enjoy when there are multiple narrators so that I can easily identify who is speaking. As well, the accents were well done. The voice of Marijke de Graaf was soft and wispy which seemed to fit this character well. All in all, the audiobook was exceptional.

This story, as they all are from this time in history, heartbreaking. In 1943, Marijke de Graaf and her husband Theo are arrested in Amsterdam as political prisoners and sent to different camps. Marijke ends up at Ravensbruck, but is given the terrible choice of remaining there and possibly dying, or moving to Buchenwald to work in the prisoner brothel. She chooses to live, but what will it cost her? She also believes that her husband is at Buchenwald and she might see him there. When SS Officer Karl Müller arrives at the camp he sees Marijke and feels something for her. He is hoping to live up to his father’s expectations of wartime glory and wants to make his time there liveable. This glance, changes both their lives. There is a second story going on that is interspersed into Marijke’s story. It is the story of Luciano, who is a political prisoner in the 1970s in Argentina. It took me most of the book to figure out how these stories linked together, but it all made sense by the end of the book. The story alternates between the perspectives of Marijke, Karl, and Luciano Wagner. I will say that I did not enjoy Luciano’s perspective as much and it confused me for most ot the book.

As always with any WWII story set at a concentration camp there are many events of abuse, rape, starvation, murder and torture. Ellen Keith describes these with a realistic and stark narrative. I feel the level of detail and description was appropriate for the subject matter, however, some people may find it difficult to read, be forewarned. The personal look into the actions of everyday people and their rationales during this time is interesting. It brings into play the dilemma of good men doing bad things because they have been ordered to do them. If they did not, they would be killed. Of course this in contrast to the heroic things done by many, risking their own lives, to save others. I finished this book a few days ago and am still thinking about this book and trying to decide what I would have done. That is something I hope I never have to find out. I definitely recommend this book and if you get the chance to listen to this one, I suggest you do. It is a sad, heartbreaking story which has the resilience of human nature at its core and the ending will blow you away.

About the Book: Amsterdam, May 1943. As the tulips bloom and the Nazis tighten their grip across the city, the last signs of Dutch resistance are being swept away. Marijke de Graaf and her husband are arrested and deported to different concentration camps in Germany. Marijke is given a terrible choice: to suffer a slow death in the labor camp or – for a chance at survival – to join the camp brothel.

On the other side of the barbed wire, SS Officer Karl Müller arrives at the camp hoping to live up to his father’s expectations of wartime glory. When he encounters the newly arrived Marijke, this meeting changes their lives forever.

Woven into the narrative across space and time is Luciano Wagner’s ordeal in 1977 Buenos Aires, during the heat of the Argentine Dirty War. In his struggle to endure military captivity, he searches for ways to resist from a prison cell he may never leave.

From the Netherlands to Germany to Argentina, The Dutch Wife is a novel about the blurred lines between love and lust, abuse and resistance, and right and wrong. It is a harrowing and ultimately redemptive story about the capacity of ordinary people to persevere under extraordinary circumstances.