Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II

Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II

Twenty-five years after her passing, Audrey Hepburn remains the most beloved of all Hollywood stars, known as much for her role as UNICEF ambassador as for films like Roman Holiday and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Several biographies have chronicled her stardom, but none has covered her intense experiences through five years of Nazi occupation in the Netherlands. According to h...

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Title:Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II
Author:Robert Matzen
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Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II Reviews

  • Keith Chawgo

    Dutch Girl documents the life of Audrey Hepburn during her years in the Netherlands which includes the torrent episodes of World War 2. At times the book comes across as a history book about the Netherlands and WWII and the story of a would be actress who would steal the hearts of the world in her adulthood.

    The novel does not really go into her films or life after she had become a star. It does however document an important part of world history and the part she played in these events and her fa

    Dutch Girl documents the life of Audrey Hepburn during her years in the Netherlands which includes the torrent episodes of World War 2. At times the book comes across as a history book about the Netherlands and WWII and the story of a would be actress who would steal the hearts of the world in her adulthood.

    The novel does not really go into her films or life after she had become a star. It does however document an important part of world history and the part she played in these events and her family, mainly her mother’s role with Nazi’s and the change of attitude once the Germans invade the Netherlands. It is a very interesting novel and I was captivated by the way Matzen is able to weave the two stories together. The story of the Netherlands is more interesting and tends to overshadow the story of Hepburn.

    The novel can be described as a thinly disguised book selling on the life of a movie star but delivering a historical account of Germany and Netherlands. I personally found it to be about a family and their involvement during the War and it gave the war a personal face through their experiences. This is where the novel does amazingly well.

    There will be a bit of disappointment who are expecting a straightforward biography. This will probably be the thorn in the books side because this is more a book about the war and a girl who will grow to be one of the most iconic film stars of her generation. This is really an extraordinary book that if it was dressed up as a WW2 book, I probably would have bypassed it on the shelves but as it was a biography, it kept me interested and engrossed in the history. I learned about an awkward girl and her family during a terrible time in history, I was able to empathise with life during this time period.

    My hats are off to Matzen and it is pure ingenious on how he was able to give me a history lesson disguised as a biography of a film star and show me the human story behind historical events. This is a winner and one of the hardest reviews to write. Highly recommended.

  • Lauren Stoolfire

    Audrey Hepburn is such an iconic actress and I've seen so many of her films multiple times. Outside of her films though I didn't know much about her life, especially as a young woman growing up during WWII in Europe. This biography from Robert Matzen is a fascinating read if you're interested in her life. I learned so much about her and I can definitely say that I have a newfound respect for her knowing what she went through. Audr

    Audrey Hepburn is such an iconic actress and I've seen so many of her films multiple times. Outside of her films though I didn't know much about her life, especially as a young woman growing up during WWII in Europe. This biography from Robert Matzen is a fascinating read if you're interested in her life. I learned so much about her and I can definitely say that I have a newfound respect for her knowing what she went through. Audrey and her family lived through the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands and witnessed the terrible events of the war first hand, including the Hunger Winter of 1944-45. I knew nothing about her parents going in and their story is just as interesting given all of the circumstances. One thing that I didn't expect was the close connection between Audrey and Anne Frank - they were almost exactly the same age and lived fairly close to one another, but their lives were very different. It's easy to see how she grew to become the woman she did especially when it comes to work with children and UNICEF.

  • Juli

    I have always loved Audrey Hepburn's films. She just shines on the screen...so beautiful, so poised and talented. I learned years ago about her charitable work through UNICEF. She was a kind and giving person, as well as intelligent and talented. This book talks about Audrey's life before Hollywood...the years she lived under the Nazi occupation of Holland.

    I never realized how much she went through during World War II in the Netherlands. My respect for her has increased so much since I finished

    I have always loved Audrey Hepburn's films. She just shines on the screen...so beautiful, so poised and talented. I learned years ago about her charitable work through UNICEF. She was a kind and giving person, as well as intelligent and talented. This book talks about Audrey's life before Hollywood...the years she lived under the Nazi occupation of Holland.

    I never realized how much she went through during World War II in the Netherlands. My respect for her has increased so much since I finished reading this book. She worked as a doctor's assistant, witnessed brutality, hunger and death, and survived it all. This book is not about Audrey as an actress....it is about her life prior to all of that. Her film career is mentioned only in passing. This book is about Audrey's years growing up during the war and how those experiences shaped who she became as an adult. Her life is so much more than her Hollywood career!!

    This is the first book by Robert Matzen that I've read. He has also written books about Carole Lombard, Jimmy Stewart and Mulholland Farm...an infamous house owned by Errol Flynn. I'm definitely going to read his other books, starting with the one about Jimmy Stewart's war service: Mission (on my TBR shelf already).

    **I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from GoodKnight Books via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

  • Valerity (Val)

    This book is about Hepburn’s early years in Europe during the war. It has a foreword by her youngest son Luca Dotta. She had always been very introverted, a quiet, shy girl. Probably more so after her parents split and her father wasn’t around anymore. but the ballet lessons she loved so much finally helped her become more expressive outwardly. Her mother, Baroness Ella Van Heemstra was very pro-German before the war began and had met Hitler a couple of times during their many travels. But then

    This book is about Hepburn’s early years in Europe during the war. It has a foreword by her youngest son Luca Dotta. She had always been very introverted, a quiet, shy girl. Probably more so after her parents split and her father wasn’t around anymore. but the ballet lessons she loved so much finally helped her become more expressive outwardly. Her mother, Baroness Ella Van Heemstra was very pro-German before the war began and had met Hitler a couple of times during their many travels. But then Audrey’s father had walked out when she was 6. They were both taking it hard but Audrey was really worried about her mother.

    Elle put Audrey in a school and found her some ballet classes in London, but when war became imminent her mother had her brought to the always previously neutral Netherlands to live. It was hard for Audrey because she didn’t speak the language there and so didn’t understand a word of what they were saying at school. The only thing that made it bearable for her was that her mother was able to get her into ballet classes again. She grew up as Adriaantje (little Audrey) Van Heemstra, but after the Germans moved in she became known as the English-sounding Audrey Hepburn-Ruston. Ella is good at organizing events, especially if it will be something that will offer a chance to show her daughter’s talent. But she’s lacking in showing warm feelings to Audrey, who is so needing them. Audrey can’t understand why Ella is still friendly with the Germans, who are being so cruel to their Jewish friends. Though, as time goes on and her mother can no longer ignore what’s going on, she does stop socializing with them, etc. But this will cause problems for Audrey throughout the rest of her life.

    About halfway through the book, near the end of the war, it begins speaking from Audrey’s later perspective, done in italics, where she returns to the Netherlands and reminisces about the war, married and a star. This appears off and on through the book. It’s well researched and reads well. This is for those interested in the old star biographies, and WWII. My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Robert Matzen, and the publisher for my fair review.

    My full review on BookZone blog:

  • Diane S ☔

    As a young girl, watching Audrey Hepburn in the many movies she made, I found her to genuine, graceful and classy. Didn't have any idea of who she was nor what she went through before her movie career. This book centers on that time, a time when a young girl was caught in Hitler's scourges.

    She was living in the Netherlands when Hitler invaded, at first things moved slowly, but soon the effects could be felt by all. She loved ballet, took lessons and became quite good. She would eventually dance

    As a young girl, watching Audrey Hepburn in the many movies she made, I found her to genuine, graceful and classy. Didn't have any idea of who she was nor what she went through before her movie career. This book centers on that time, a time when a young girl was caught in Hitler's scourges.

    She was living in the Netherlands when Hitler invaded, at first things moved slowly, but soon the effects could be felt by all. She loved ballet, took lessons and became quite good. She would eventually dance in fundraisers, where the money was turned over to the Dutch resistance. She saw many atrocities, saw many starve to death, but one particular act, the death of someone close to her would haunt her. In fact, she never really got over what she experienced during that time.

    Not only does this wonderfully portrayed her early years, but does an excellent job showing Hitler's plans in the Netherlands. So a deft portrayal of someone who would grow up to impact many on the screen, but also a more than adequate historical. The many who would not give in and fought Hitler and his plans with the utmost bravery. The book does cover some of Audrey's later film career, but only when her future was impacted by her past. Very well done.

    The narrator Tavia Gilbert was very clear and concise. A pleasing narration.

  • Dem

    I really enjoyed this book because it chronicles her war Experiences

    I really enjoyed this book because it chronicles her war Experiences as a participant in the Dutch Resistance, working as a doctor’s assistant and her ballet career. The book focuses on the effect that the war had on Audrey Hepburn and her family. We also learn quite a lot about her mother and father who were Nazi sympathizers at the beginning of the war. The Nazi’s occupation and atrocities in the Netherlands is very well detailed and very well researched in this book.

    I rarely read books on Film stars and their careers as I am not really a movie person but who could resist this one on the iconic Audrey Hepburn and especially with such an interesting upbringing which I knew nothing about. I listened to this book on Audio and the narration was satisfactory and was accompanied by a PDF file of photographs and maps which was helpful. However I did find it quite a challenge to keep track of all the characters and names and this might have been easier for me had I had a physical copy of the book. Overall I really enjoyed the book and am delighted I took the advice of my Goodread’s friend Diane to pick this one up as it was insightful and quite a page turner.

  • Michelle

    Wow, I really didnt realise how interesting the WW2 / Audrey Hepburn combo would be when I first picked up this book. I'm pretty shocked at some of the things I have read.

    Audrey's parents were particularly interesting, her father was British and was considered a traitor and spent most of the war in a British prison. Her mother, Dutch, actively supported and met Hitler on many occasions, and even wrote about it in a fascist newspaper, something that followed her for a lifetime and had many implic

    Wow, I really didnt realise how interesting the WW2 / Audrey Hepburn combo would be when I first picked up this book. I'm pretty shocked at some of the things I have read.

    Audrey's parents were particularly interesting, her father was British and was considered a traitor and spent most of the war in a British prison. Her mother, Dutch, actively supported and met Hitler on many occasions, and even wrote about it in a fascist newspaper, something that followed her for a lifetime and had many implications.

    What really struck a cord with me though was the connection to Anne Frank. Anne and Audrey were born weeks apart, the same age, just 60 miles away from each other and how different their lives were. I was amazed that Anne wrote in her diary an event in which Audrey's uncle was murdered. Audrey was called upon many a times to play Anne is various films which she always turned down.

    Overall I enjoyed this however in true non fiction style it's a dry read.

  • Amanda

    In the forward, the author claims to have all this never before known knowledge about Audrey's life during the war. However, it did not appear that anything--or at least very little--was revealed about Audrey's life during that time in this book. Audrey did speak about her life during the war--most chapters start with a quote from her about it--but she spoke about it very rarely because it caused her such pain. What the author more accurately did was put what little we know about her into a wide

    In the forward, the author claims to have all this never before known knowledge about Audrey's life during the war. However, it did not appear that anything--or at least very little--was revealed about Audrey's life during that time in this book. Audrey did speak about her life during the war--most chapters start with a quote from her about it--but she spoke about it very rarely because it caused her such pain. What the author more accurately did was put what little we know about her into a wider historical context. So when Audrey was taking dance classes or when her uncle was killed, the author spends a lot of time explaining what else was happening in the war around Europe. There are entire chapters where Audrey is not mentioned AT ALL while the author goes off on these tangents. While the context is of course relevant, it is given far too much precedence in a story that is supposed to be about Audrey Hepburn.

    The largest value this book has is the chapter that talks about Audrey and Anne Frank. That was fabulous and should be its own book. Audrey and Anne were the same age, living in the same country at the same time--but their lives took wildly different paths. And yet, they intertwined. Audrey read Anne's diary many times during her life and later met Anne's father Otto. It was an incredibly fascinating chapter and would love to see this fleshed out. Why "Audrey and Anne" has not already been made into a book and movie is very surprising to me.

  • Kasa Cotugno

    The book has been marketed as telling the story of Audrey Hepburn's young years during World War II in which she lived in Arnhem, developing her skills as a dancer and working as an agent for the underground. While this is true in parts, it primarily chronicles what life in that town (the town of "a bridge too far") was like for the inhabitants and the transformations wrought by invasion, occupation and liberation. Such devastating affect on Audrey and members of her family was truly immersive,

    The book has been marketed as telling the story of Audrey Hepburn's young years during World War II in which she lived in Arnhem, developing her skills as a dancer and working as an agent for the underground. While this is true in parts, it primarily chronicles what life in that town (the town of "a bridge too far") was like for the inhabitants and the transformations wrought by invasion, occupation and liberation. Such devastating affect on Audrey and members of her family was truly immersive, but the author's obvious high regard for Audrey is apparent with every description and episode, imbuing all with a great deal of affection. Her mother's history was remarkable, being enraptured by Hitler, even meeting him in 1935 and being a believer until some time into the occupation. Later in life during interviews as an adult, Audrey didn't talk about this aspect of her family history. In fact, she sublimated a lot of the horror and deprivation and tamped it down inside. That changed in 1946 when she first came across Anne Frank's diary. The similarities she and Anne shared went straight to her heart, and provided her with what became her most important mission later in life, that of the protection and welfare of children via UNICEF. The reader thus comes away with a deeper understanding of why Hepburn projected such empathy especially for children,

    However, I found the book on the whole to be quite repetitious in parts and much more of a history than a biography.

  • Amanda

    A look at WWII in the Netherlands - specifically Arnhem and Velp - through the lens of Audrey Hepburn. Every chapter starts with one of the rare quotes by Hepburn about her experiences during the war, but the chapters heavily focus on the details of the war itself. Matzen really tries to immerse the reader in the terrifying experiences, perhaps to the extent of fabricating people’s thoughts and feelings. This book would be best loved by someone who is fond of Hepburn and is also interested in wh

    A look at WWII in the Netherlands - specifically Arnhem and Velp - through the lens of Audrey Hepburn. Every chapter starts with one of the rare quotes by Hepburn about her experiences during the war, but the chapters heavily focus on the details of the war itself. Matzen really tries to immerse the reader in the terrifying experiences, perhaps to the extent of fabricating people’s thoughts and feelings. This book would be best loved by someone who is fond of Hepburn and is also interested in what happened in the Netherlands during WWII. Hepburn fans might be disinterested in the war detail and WWII buffs might be annoyed by the Hepburn emphasis.

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