Girl Learns of Nazi Occupation Through Belgian Journal
(Ages 11 to 15)
For as long as she can remember, Grace’s life has revolved around Dotty, her older sister. Living with the nuns in a convent in Belgium, she has always helped look after Dotty. Until now. Now Dotty is dead and Grace is being moved to the dormitory to be with the other girls her age, the same girls who used to call she and Dotty “sister retards.”
To make matters worse, cruel Sister Francis is in charge of the dormitory. As Grace tries to fit in with the other girls and make new friends, she also tries desperately to steer clear of Sister Francis, who always seems to be filled with anger and hate. Grace continues to hope and pray that one day the mother who left her and Dotty at the convent will come back for her.
When Grace finds an old diary hidden in the library, she becomes caught up in the sad story of the young woman who wrote it. As she learns about the terrifying events that transpired when the Nazis invaded Belgium, her heart goes out to the girl who witnessed and lived through such unspeakable horrors. She never imagines that this diary will lead her to the truth about her own family history.
Recalling her own experiences at a Belgian boarding school, Nova Scotian author Daphne Greer has crafted a compelling work of historical fiction that is a poignant family drama. Although readers are only briefly introduced to Dotty, she is nonetheless a beautifully-realized character. The relationship between her and Grace is vividly rendered and realistically depicted.
Grace’s experiences, insecurities and fears as she begins her new life with the other girls will elicit empathy from modern readers who will relate to her feelings if not the setting. Through the diary entries that Grace reads, the author is able to give readers a glimpse of what life was like in Belgium during the dark days of Nazi occupation. The multi-layered plot is intricately woven and well paced. The resolution is emotionally satisfying, making this a story that will appeal to a wide range of readers.