Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Family Secret by Eric Heuvel


A Family Secret by Eric Heuvel is a graphic novel about a young girl’s experience in Amsterdam during World War II.  When Helen’s grandson finds some interesting things in the attic, her story is told through a series of flashbacks that include Helen’s best friend Esther’s own experiences as a Jewish girl leaving Germany for Amsterdam to avoid the persecution by the Nazis.

The audience is clearly meant to be young adults, as the unnecessary footnotes attest to.  The images are reminiscent of the work Herge (Georges Remi), the man behind the Tin Tin series.  The story is interesting, if not somewhat predictable.  There are other stories alluded to but not fully explored, as in Helen’s sharing about the Dutch colonists in Indonesia who were rounded up during Japanese occupation and, upon being freed, thought they could happily return to their plantation and continue ruling over the indigent peoples.  There’s a story in that, one that isn’t often written from my own reading experience.

Unfortunately, the back cover of the book also tells the reader something pivotal about this book because one of the characters in this novel obviously gets to tell their own story in another graphic novel. Stupid choice on the publisher’s part.

Stupid choice on the writer’s part was to create a ridiculous ending, a coincidence that strains at credulity and reads more like the author’s haste to wrap things up in a nice neat package.  It doesn’t serve the overall story well.

I would recommend this book to younger readers but for the more sophisticated reader who wants to know about Amsterdam during World War II there are too many other great novels and books of nonfiction to spend more than a few moments flipping through the pages of this graphic novel.  A disappointment over all.

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