Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Things We Couldn't Say by Diet Eman with James Schaap



Things We Couldn't Say by Diet Eman
Copyright 1994
William B. Eerdman's Publishing Co. -  WWII Memoir
392 pp., incl. Postscript and photos

Source:  Personal Library, purchased for F2F discussion . . . which I had to miss due to a migraine.  Bummer.

What's it about?

Diet (pronounced DEET) Eman's story is about falling in love just before WWII and how she and her fiancĂ©, Hein Siestma, helped start a branch of the Dutch Resistance when they agreed to hide 3 Jews by finding them homes with farmers in the countryside.  From the original 3, the number grew and exploded to the point that it was difficult for those in the Resistance to keep up with the needs of the hidden.

What I liked about Things We Couldn't Say:

Let's just stop right at the word "liked" and back up.  I was astounded by the bravery of Diet and her fellow resistance workers.  "Like" doesn't even begin to cover my feelings.  I think Things We Couldn't Say is one of the best WWII books I've read in my life.  It is also one of the most harrowing.   There were many, many times I discovered that I'd been holding my breath during scenes of danger.  How anyone summoned the courage to take the risks Diet and the other Resistance members did (transporting people by train in full view, finding places to hide them, carrying forged ration cards and other documents) is truly beyond me.

The most amazing thing about Diet Eman's story:  Diet and many of the Resistance workers were imprisoned and some died but not a single Jew that they hid perished.  Not one.  Wait, no, that's not the most amazing thing!  The real jaw-dropper was the fact that after being imprisoned, in spite of having lived through horrendous conditions and being faced with torture or death, when she was released Diet went right back to work in the Resistance.

What I disliked:

Nothing.  I am shocked that this book hasn't been made into a movie.  It's one of the most heart-pounding, mind-blowing WWII books I've ever read.

When the war ended, I felt like I'd lived through it with Diet.  I had tears of relief streaming down my face.  While I don't think Things We Couldn't Say is as beautifully written as The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, that's actually a good thing.  Because of the way it's written, you can almost hear Diet's accent.  Incidentally, she was held in the same prison as Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsy, for a time.  Diet and Hein were also Christians and there's a lot of talk about and to God in the letters and diary entries within the pages of Things We Couldn't Say. But in their case Christianity was a guiding light, a comfort and the compelling reason for their continued work.  Their mission was not to spread Christianity but to put its principles to work. There were times Diet was so exhausted she felt as if she couldn't go on, succumbed to exhaustion or felt her faith floundering, but she continued to do everything within her power to provide for those in need till the end of the war.

There were at least two times Diet received warnings that sent chills down my spine.  In one case, she actually heard a voice telling her she'd better get a good look at the man she was with. Although she refused to give in to what she knew in her heart was true, it was the last time she saw that man alive.

The bottom line:

Highly, highly Recommended - There aren't enough glowing words to describe Things We Couldn't Say.  I found myself thinking, "If everyone in the U.S. read this book, the whining would go away . . . at least for a while."  It's difficult to fathom the hardship, the terror, the hunger and cold and cruelty people experienced during WWII but as I read . . . I was there.  I was simultaneously terrified for Diet and staggered by her courage and intelligence.

Interesting/scary fact:

When Diet wrote the book she said, in spite of ample photographic evidence and first-hand accounts, 22% of Americans didn't believe the Holocaust even happened.  That was almost 20 years ago.  Now, we see denial of horrifying events practically the moment they show up on the news, which only makes Diet's story more important than ever, in my humble opinion.

Will post a week in review on Saturday:

Apologies for the onslaught.  I need to go ahead and write while I'm in the mood and I decided to just go ahead and post three reviews on the same day so that I can add the links to my Books Read in 2013 list.  It's just easier.  I need easy, this week.

©2013 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

15 comments:

  1. I just put this one in my shopping cart and Barnes & Noble ... now all I have to do is wait for payday!

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    1. It's worth waiting for payday, Bridget. Can't wait to hear what you think.

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  2. Off to buy this book right now. I don't know that I'm in a place to read it right now, but I do know I want to read it. Thank you, Nancy!

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    1. I know what you mean, Wendy. It's the kind of book you need to save for a time when you can handle the horrible reality of what people have done to each other. We're getting enough of that blasted at us in the news, right now. I tend to read WWII books because they're a reminder to me of a time when so many people were willing to sacrifice their lives for others and when they endured hardship with quiet and calm. They despaired at times, but still . . . I'm always in awe of how people survived during WWII.

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  3. Ok, you have finally done it!! I have never felt more compelled to read a WWII book in my life! I got so burnt out on them, and stopped reading them, because they all told such horrific stories with almost no hope. If you want to read another amazing story about the French Resistance, look up Resistance. I think that was my favorite, but I am prepared to move that one down on the list for this one. Incredible review today. I am off to buy this one now.

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    1. LOL I've done my job then, eh? I am soooo glad someone from my book group chose this book! I'd never heard of it and was totally blown away by the courage of the people in the resistance. I've read a book called Resistance set in France but it's an older title by Anita Shreve. Looks like there are a bunch of books with that title. I'll bop over to your blog to ask you who the author is.

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  4. I'm in love with books about this period in history. You've made me want to run out and get this right this minute!

    Tah dah! I just requested it from my local library :) Thanks for the fantastic review

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    1. Somebody at William B. Eerdman's ought to be falling in love with me, right about now. Haha. I'm glad you requested it, Jennifer. It's my favorite time period, too. Amazing story. And, she didn't even want to tell it -- the author required a bit of sweet-talking. Thank goodness she gave in. The world needs to read about such courage in the face of danger. Humble opinion and all that. :)

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  5. Thanks for this one. I'm definitely adding it to my list!

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    1. It is sooo good, Jenclair. And, I found out what I missed at my F2F group. One of the ladies brought her husband, whose father is in the book. They're both Dutch and were young but they remember the war. Argh, I so wish I could have been there!!!!

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  6. Anonymous12:53 PM

    Love this book!

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  7. I hadn't heard of this one so thanks for the review. I have read all the books swirling around Anne Frank. Miep Gies's memoir about hiding that Franks is unreal and Anne's book of course. So I"m sure this one would blow my socks off too.

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    1. I haven't read Miep Gies's memoir. I need to do that. Anne Frank's book is so moving and beautifully written. Such a brilliant girl. I found myself imagining the writing she might have done, had she lived.

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  8. Anonymous8:53 PM

    Your thoughts perfectly reflected my own- pure amazement! I felt like I was right there with her. Her voice, especially including the diary entries, gave such a different perspective of the war and the Holocaust that I had not read or seen before. The book is an amazing combination of love story, history, and unmatched courage.

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