The Empty City – Simone van der Vlugt

Cover from

My book review of “De Lege Stad [NL] / The Empty City [EN]” written by Simone van der Vlugt

In my view…

This is another historical novel written by Simone van der Vlugt. But this time the history is a bit closer. The story takes place just before, during and shortly after the World War II. It is all focused on a woman living in Rotterdam with her family and friends. This town, Rotterdam, the city where I live now, 70 years later after the end of the war. The city has still its antebellum characteristics. Which makes this books beautiful because it is really good imaginable how the people lived through those hard years.

Simone van der Vlugt draws you into the story along. I did not discover any spelling or grammar mistakes so the reading itself was nice. The story is tough though. Most of it is based on a true story, true facts, existed people, so many details…. Some facts I already knew, heard of them before. Seen in other films or other read stories. But this book brings it all together. Now it makes sense why some things happened in the film Oorlogswinter (2008) and I always thought why so suddenly something happened. This book fills in the gaps. Explains how the war goes through The Netherlands, differences between circumstances in the cities or in the countryside and how people reacted sometimes.

Maybe this sounds a bit vaguely to you but I will not give away spoilers. The main character through the book is Katja van Kesteren. She is the central character and around her Simone van der Vlugt created the family, friends, neighbours, business contacts and enemies.

The book lets you slowly surprise. Time after time. And in the end I was flabbergasted. I know more know about the war. And though I know this book is a novel and partly fiction. It is partly fiction, partly true.

Here in the city we have red little lights with a firemark on them in the streets. In the city center just in the sidewalk now and then. A few years ago there was a light show. With bright lights they all shined far into the sky. Together they formed the boundary of the fire which laid the city in ashes. On the 14th of May around 13.00 (GMT +1), the bombardment started here in Rotterdam. At that day I think of those lights I see in the streets.

I am not telling about the story – never do in my book reviews – you have to read the book yourself and make your own opinion. I hope you like the book too. It is worth to read it!

Greetings by Sophie

Title: De Lege Stad [NL] / The Empty City [EN]
Author: Simone van der Vlugt
Genre: Historical Novel
ISBN: 978 90 263 3058 5
NUR: 342 – Historical novel
Publisher: Ambo | Anthos, Amsterdam
Year 1st edition & read edition: 2015
Year read: 2015
Original language: Dutch
Read language: Dutch
Pages:  287
Places: Rotterdam
Rating: 5/5

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