Book Review: In Search of a Name by Marjolijn van Heemstra

October 8, 2020

In Search of a Name by Marjolijn van Heemstra follows a pregnant woman researching her uncle’s past after World War II. The book, originally in Dutch, won several prizes and has sold the film rights.

  • 208 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1982100486
  • Publisher : Atria Books
  • Language: : English

Book Review: In Search of a Name by Marjolijn van Heemstra
My rating for In Search of a Name4
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This book is a somewhat unusual book which is more nuanced than what I thought it would be. The story of a woman who dares, has the courage, to dig into a family legend that created a hero is something to behold.

I enjoyed the timeline, counting backwards the week to the birth of the baby. I thought it was a unique way to tell a story and In Search of a Name by Marjolijn van Heemstra uses that technique very well. The premise of this book is very interesting, and I can certainly understand that in many families this is a can of worms no one wants to open.

I think that books like this, one that targets a different audience than English speakers, will do well with footnotes and annotations from the translator, or publisher. I happen to be somewhat familiar, even though certainly not intimately familiar, and far away from being an expert, of the history the author talks about. Much of the story, mood, and background was familiar to me, but I can certainly see how those who did not grow up in Holland might find it difficult to either follow or understand.

The ending of the book was a bit strange. While I know that I can never get close to understanding what women feel being pregnant, I don’t think that flying to Spain, during a non-conventional pregnancy a few weeks before you’re due is something a pregnant woman would do.

I did enjoy how the author went about constructing the story and searching her family history. In the process she discovers new friends, and new branches in the most unexpected places. Even though, in places like Holland, if you dig far enough – and it doesn’t have to be too far – I’m sure everyone is related at some point, whether it be by family or happenstance.

A pregnant woman wants to call her unborn son after her great uncle, a hero of the Dutch Resistance who is known as “Bommenneef”, since he killed a traitor with a bomb. As she looks more closely at the uncle’s legend, passed down by family members, she starts to have her doubts about the history that goes with the name.

She has to finish her research, talk to witnesses, and separated truth from fiction before the baby is born.

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Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer: I got this book for free.
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account

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