The Dutch Wife: A Novel by Ellen KeithThe Dutch Wife: A Novel by Ellen Keith

The Dutch Wife: A Novel

byEllen Keith

Paperback | July 2, 2019

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Summer of Canadian Reading 2019

“[A] supremely absorbing tale.” —Toronto Star

From the occupied Netherlands and Nazi Germany to the dictatorship of 1970s Argentina, The Dutch Wife braids together the stories of three individuals who share a dark secret and are entangled in two of the most oppressive reigns of terror in modern history.



Title:The Dutch Wife: A NovelFormat:PaperbackProduct dimensions:400 pages, 8 × 5.31 × 0.9 inShipping dimensions:8 × 5.31 × 0.9 inPublished:July 2, 2019Publisher:HarperCollinsLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1443454265

ISBN - 13:9781443454261


Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great story I couldn't put down! I am going to keep my eyes peeled for Keith's next novel! I really enjoyed the story and loved how the three pieces were woven together. The ending had some more small twists that kept me intrigued right to the very end. The characters were well developed; you really felt their frustrations, desperation, and struggles.
Date published: 2019-05-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enjoyed I really enjoyed this book..some parts like Argentina were a bit drawn out but the rest was interesting and kept me reading.
Date published: 2019-04-27
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Just okay I often read books that involve World War 2. I was interested to read about the brothels and the love affair. The third narrative in Argentina did not fit the book. I didn't quite understand why it was even a part of the book. I found those sections to be rather dry. The other 2 narratives were intriguing and interesting to read about. It was like reading 2 books in one.
Date published: 2019-01-15
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Mediocre I was intrigued by the concept of brothels in concentration camps however the story fell flat. The book lacked emotion from the characters and did not draw any emotions out of me. The third narrative in Argentina was boring and unnecessary filler. I feel like the author wanted to write about two historical events and forced a way to put them into one book.
Date published: 2018-11-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I really enjoyed this book I loved the story, the characters, and especially the quality of the writing. The author surely did a lot of research to come up with this story. I hope Ellen Keith will publish another title very soon.
Date published: 2018-11-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from beautiful story An amazing story of survival and human relationships. Absolutely loved.
Date published: 2018-10-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from What would you do? I waited 6 weeks on the library hold list to get this book and it didn't let me down. I mentally asked myself what would I do if I was in Marijken's place and I couldn't imagine having to do what she did. In this book there are 3 interwoven stories that come together at the end. I read a lot of historical stories and this one is well written and I liked it .
Date published: 2018-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great read I liked this book. It's another great historical read, however I had a hard time to like the main character. I felt terrible for her but struggled to like her. I'm not sure what it was. However I still recommend the book. It is a good read.
Date published: 2018-08-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Difficult to read, impossible to put down. I devoured this in greedy gulps. Not what I expected, but I am glad that I read it. Beautifully interwoven tales of three people that were brought together at the end - I was uncertain until then that it would be possible. The author did not hold back - this book hits the reader repreatedly in a visceral way. What a gifted storyteller!
Date published: 2018-08-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great read this is a book that is hard to put down, it keeps the reader engaged. loved it
Date published: 2018-08-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Suspenseful Well written and captivating story. Must read for any historical fiction fan.
Date published: 2018-08-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Read I bought this book during a historical fiction binge I was on - strictly for the different perspective of Marijke's war experience. Didn't think I would enjoy certain parts of the Argentina storyline. That being said - Marijke's storyline showed an insight into women's experience in wartime that is not often explored or thought of. I found it brilliantly written and fascinating. I found myself connecting with her character and how controversial her human emotions became. I did find Luciano's storyline a little less exciting and somewhat repetitive - but still turned out better than I was expecting. overall a good ready
Date published: 2018-08-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What would you do to survive? Many thanks to Hanover Square Press, Harlequin and #NetGalley for allowing me to read a copy of The Dutch Wife in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are completely my own. There are times in life when an individual may be forced to ask themselves the difficult question of what exactly they would be willing to do in order to thrive and/or survive. In this novel inspired by fact, the reader gets to examine how 3 different individuals responded to lifethreatening challenges. The first character we meet is Marijke de Graaf, a young Dutch woman who along with her husband has been captured by the Germans after they are caught with evidence of creating illegal radios. They are sent via cattle car to Germany where they are separated. Marijke ends up in Ravensbruck initially while her husband is sent to Buchenwald as a forced labourer. We don't hear too much about her husband after that except incidentally until the end of the story. As a political prisoner rather than a Jewish prisoner, Marijke is allowed to keep her hair and has a slightly better lifestyle than the Jews, but she recognizes fairly quickly that the odds are working against her potential survival so when she and a number of other attractive young women are selected and told that their life can greatly improve, with decent meals, more comfortable living quarters and the possibility of freedom in 6 months time, she has to make a decision. All the woman have to do is agree to work in a brothel where they will service male prisoners. Some of the women have a history as prostitutes, some are married, some are not. At the last moment Marijke steps forward and volunteers to be the last woman chosen for the group. The women are transferred to Buchenwald where some of the promises made to them regarding food and shelter do in fact take place. There are parts of Marijke's story which include graphic descriptions of what it was like to be required to service approximately 8 men over a two hour time period everyday all while a guard might be peeking through a door hole. I can't even imagine just how awful it would have been, but the author does not hold back in the descriptions. The next character we meet is Karl, a German officer newly arrived at Buchenwald in a position that holds great authority. He is a complex character - he feels a strong sense of duty to succeed in order to gain the approval of his father, but his best friend as a boy growing up was a young Jewish boy. What he sees on arrival and what is required of him as an officer comes as a shock yet he feels compelled to do what is asked of him even though much of it sickens him. His story becomes intertwined with that of Marijke. She helps to keep him sane and uses him to attempt to gain news of her husband. Over time their relationship deepens but always in a guarded way with her in a position of subservience to Karl's power. Thirdly we meet Luciano Wagner. His story is told in a completely different time period in 1970's Argentina. Lucian is a young gay male violently abducted from his home in front of his parents and taken away to a place with living conditions similar to what might have been found in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. As a prisoner we learn more of his relationship to his father and his great desire to win his approval. I confess that prior to reading this section of the book I had absolutely no knowledge of Argentina's history in this time period or any other for that matter. I definitely plan on seeing what more I can find out. Going back to Karl & Marijke, as the war draws to an end and it becomes clear that liberation for the prisoners is at hand, Karl is faced with some choices - does he stay with Marijke? Does he run away before the Americans arrive? What will he do to survive? This book does not tell a happy story. It shows you characters faced with the most difficult moments in their lives and being forced to choose how they will respond to them. It kept me riveted. The more I read, the more I understood why the author included Luciano's experiences. It hit me suddenly that experiences like these could be happening around the world right now with me being completely unaware of them. More and more incidents are being shared on social media that demonstrate there is far too much hatred in society that is simply based on one group of people being different from another in some way. Books like this are a reminder that we need to pay attention before we too have to decide how we will respond to adversity.
Date published: 2018-08-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from This was book was not very captivating I purchased this book 6 wks ago with a few others to have on hand at our summer retreat. It was an easy read but not very compelling. Of the many books I've read about this era, this one ranked in the middle of the pack. The subject matter was different form the others and could have been much more interesting.
Date published: 2018-07-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Wonderful but Intense The historical fiction coming out in the last few years that depicts regular people and their lives in extenuating circumstances has really been wonderful. I now add The Dutch Wife to the list of really great writing and storytelling. As always with any WWII story set at a concentration camp there are many events of abuse, rape, starvation, murder and more awful actions. Ellen Keith does not dance around these issues; instead she describes them with a realistic and stark attitude. As we all know they happened, and part of historical fiction is to warn us not to allow history to repeat itself I feel the level of detail and description is more than appropriate for the subject matter. That said, be forewarned that this is not a novel for the faint of heart. The Story Our primary story is told from two points of view. One from a woman from Amsterdam who is a Jew sympathizer. The other from a man who is a higher ranking Nazi officer assigned to the camp. The setting is a Nazi concentration camp with marginally better conditions than Auschwitz; which isn't saying much. The narrative is primarily about this woman and man coping with what life has thrown at them. They both make seemingly impossible decisions in order to stay alive. These decisions and moments are the real heart of Keith's novel. The 'Side' Story This separate story is based on a historical event I knew nothing about until reading The Dutch Girl. While the 1970's account of the Dirty War in Argentina and the wrongful communist persecutions sets up a great contrast to the WWII narrative; every time Keith swapped to this story all I wanted was for the chapter to be over so we could return to our leading man and woman at the camp. The dual telling of these stories adds an analytical view on suppression and control of a dictator; but overall I could have done without it. But I'm sure some English professors are thrilled with the comparison and essay opportunities the story adds to The Dutch Wife. This is added story is the only reason why I give this 4 stars instead of 5. Conflicting Emotions Both our characters in WWII have situations in which they are going against their gut reaction. Each time this happens they end up with conflicting emotions with what they are doing. Keith does a brilliant job of show us that circumstance is really what leads us to make certain decisions. And while in average daily lives they maybe wouldn't have made the same decision; the harshness of the concentration camp and the will to stay alive means that both our characters do what some may call morally subject things both physically, mentally and emotionally. I've always thought that circumstance drives the core decisions we make on a daily basis. Factors like age, health, safety, money, opportunity (or lack of) cannot be overlooked when we analyse why someone does something at any given time. Morals As with most WWII stories, The Dutch Wife focuses on the inner personal conflict that many people (German or not) experienced when they started to realize what following the Nazi party laws meant in actuality. Keith focuses on the strife and struggle for average people to survive during this time of harsh rules and deadly outcomes. The focus is on how so many people 'allowed' this power shift to happen and why so many made decisions we might today call immoral. The Dutch Wife clearly demonstrates that none of us can say that we would never, ever break a personal moral. Instead only that we have all been fortunate enough to not been pushed beyond all reason to make decisions purely based on the will to live. For example: it's easy to say I will not cheat on my spouse; but it's a lot harder to stay committed if that spouse: goes missing for years, has ailing health issues, is inattentive or in any way abusive. Each of these scenarios (and many others) might convince, even the most fervently devoted spouse, to act differently than they would if they had a loving spouse next to them. Until you have been in someone's shoes you cannot say what you might have done or not done. The Dutch Wife shows this with such clarity regarding what we today would consider simple decisions. It's a truly wonderful perspective and had me thinking a lot about the idea of morality and what makes someone a 'good' person. Keith also focuses on the continuing theme that we all have a basic instinct, hard-wired in our brains, to survive. And at moments when survival seems unlikely or is challenged nothing but surviving matters anymore. This is the moment when 'good' people can cross over into areas of morality they never imagined they'd go. This is the power of limited options on the brain. Survival instinct takes over and we are no longer the person we once were. Overall The personal introspective into 'average' people and their rationales during this extraordinary time makes The Dutch Wife more about people and how we cope, than about WWII itself. Regardless of what historical plight or time Keith had chosen I believe the core story wouldn't change in this novel. Being able to relate with each character and understand each point of view helps us understand the factors restricting their choices. This makes this a very intimate novel that is likely to make many people wonder what they would have done given the same circumstances. In our increasingly complex and tumultuous world Keith has brought to light how the climate of circumstances can definitely change our actions. I am finding myself asking (more often these days) if I would do the same thing as someone in their circumstances. Doing this BEFORE judging or assuming morality, faith or commitment is something I believe more of us need to do. If we hold onto the understanding that survival is the key to life then I believe we would approach many issues and people differently. I hope others are able to get better perspective on the difficulty of having only awful decisions before you. And while to die is always an option; we should never underestimate our animal instinct to survive.
Date published: 2018-07-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Captivating I was given this book as a gift. I have read many non-fiction and fiction books involving WW11 but this book was different than many of the others. The story focused on prisoners in another part of concentration camps that I hadn't heard or read about. It really made me think of how many other types of torture were there that weren't known. It certainly showed the unknown strength some have to survive. Excellent book.
Date published: 2018-07-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Wow An interesting perspective on WW2, very powerful. While some moments were tough to read, I appreciate the author's detail as it gives us a glimpse at how disturbing and horrific the crimes were during WW2.
Date published: 2018-07-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good read Yet another historical fiction about being in WWII, but I really appreciated the different perspectives this book offered.
Date published: 2018-07-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Simply Loved this Book I wasn't sure what I was getting into when I first started reading this book, but the pages kept pulling me back in. I couldn't stop reading until I was finished. Such a well written poignant book.
Date published: 2018-07-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved this book OMG!!! What can I say. This book was powerful. So extremely well written. Yet another WWII book from another stand point. I will be looking forward to reading more of Ellen Keith
Date published: 2018-07-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Read Read this book in under a day, absolutely got me hooked. Written so well
Date published: 2018-07-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great read The subject was disturbing but was extremely well written. Felt like I was there.
Date published: 2018-07-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good read I read this book in a couple days. I like how the book is written from the different characters perspectives. A must have if anyone is interested in WWII historical fiction novels.
Date published: 2018-07-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great read I finished this book in less than a week. That is a feat for me working full time. This book makes you feel for every person portrayed in the story. Comfort women were hated by many called traitors by some. Yet did they really have a choice. This book captures their hardships and gives their view. Very good read.
Date published: 2018-06-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Anguishing Whatever we thought we knew about the anguish of war and dictatorship is revealed in ‘The Dutch Wife’. In finely focused fashion, the author details individual suffering reflecting societal strife affecting nations in Europe and South America during times of war and dictatorship. The atrocities are heart wrenching; the impact searing.
Date published: 2018-05-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Dutch, German, Argentinian tragedy A well written, thought provoking detailed account of the horrors of war & what individuals had to do to stay alive in the worst of times. Three compelling characters describe their complex pasts, loves & the unique 'roles' that they were forced to play during war time. A brilliant & tragic debut novel by Ellen Keith.
Date published: 2018-05-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Well Done Book Very well written and researched. Ellen Keith touches on a subject most writers have stayed away from war comfort women. This book is not romantic in any sense it's raw and gritty. I read this one in one night,staying up way to late to finish it.
Date published: 2018-05-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Compelling Honesty This story will stay with me for a long time.Very thought provoking. Great read for book club discussions. My father passed away last summer.He had told me stories of what took place. Things he never spoke of for years.Between the Dutch & Germans. I too am a slow reader butthis took me two days, I could not put it down. I highly recommend it.
Date published: 2018-05-07
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good read It a brilliant historical fiction for readers who love Dutch fiction. Ellen Keith brings the best of both worlds, both American classical fiction and Dutch fiction intertwined.
Date published: 2018-05-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Heart-wrenching This is the type of story that you will enjoy and hate at the same time because of what's unfolding. The plot is good and the characters are strong and your feelings will be in an emotional vortex.
Date published: 2018-05-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic historical fiction This book is incredibly well-researched and a compelling story. I highly recommend it.
Date published: 2018-04-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Haunting, Intense Historical Fiction An intense meditation on the nature of hatred, prejudice and oppression, Ellen Keith's The Dutch Wife is as beautiful as it is heavy. Told in alternating viewpoints of a woman trapped in Buchenwald over the last several years of WWII and a young man captured as a political prisoner during the reign of the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance in 1970s Argentina, Keith's complex novel serves as an important reminder that the prejudice and terrors of the Holocaust are not quite as far in the rear view mirror as we might think, and that dangerous things happen when governments aim to restrict free speech, and get to decide who does and does not deserve the status of personhood under the law. Keith's writing is beautiful and effecting; it gave me chills. The Dutch Wife is the perfect book for fans of historical fiction with plenty of weight to it-- it is not an "easy" read, considering its content. But it is a rewarding read. #indigoemployee
Date published: 2018-04-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Haunting Story That's Hard to Forget I’m typically a slow reader, but this is a spellbinding read I couldn’t put down and I burned through it in two days! I’m really looking forward to discussing it in both my book clubs. Ellen Keith has produced a compelling and timely read that reminds us how things can escalate when we begin to demonize people we judge to be different. She also does a magnificent job of portraying the poignant lifelong consequences that result when a parent burdens a child with expectations that are at odds with the child’s nature. This story with its many thought-provoking themes will stay with me for a long time.
Date published: 2018-03-18