A moving, revealing memoir about a man and his young family during the Nazi occupation of Holland, as told by his granddaughters, one a beloved novelist.
At once a memoir and a social history of a time, The Occupied Garden is the story of a good but poor man, a market gardener, and his fiercely devout wife, raising their young family in Holland during the Nazi occupation. Pieced together by the couple’s granddaughters, who combed through historical research, family lore, and insights from a neighbour’s wartime diary, the story chronicles how the couple struggled to keep their children from starving, but could not keep them from harm, and reveals the strife and hardship endured not just by them, but by a nation. These experiences, kept from subsequent generations of the family, were almost lost until, long after their deaths, the path of the couple through the war and on to Canada was uncovered. A personal and intimate account within the larger context of a terrorized nation, this is also a story of the bonds and strains among family, told with the haunting, evocative prose for which Kristen den Hartog is known.
Kristen den Hartog is the critically acclaimed author of Water Wings, The Perpetual Ending, which was a finalist for the City of Toronto Book Award, and Origin of Haloes. She writes this book with Tracy Kasaboski, her sister, a “closet writer” who first inspired den Hartog years ago with her own dramatic childhood stories. Den Hartog lives in Toronto, while Kasaboski makes her home in Deep River, Ontario.
“The family’s struggles to endure terror, surveillance, bombing and the edges of starvation have been pieced together with colour and compassion. . . . Their story of war, dislocation and survival is well and evocatively told.”
– London Free Press
“Amazingly detailed and moving . . . it is the quintessential Canadian story.”
– Ottawa Citizen
“Moving and lyrical . . . If this book were less carefully crafted and not as well written, it would be mere family history. Instead, it’s also the history of a country – and of the people who lived in it during a terrible time.”
– Montreal Gazette
“In this heroic gesture of recovery of family history, the authors not only recreate their grandparents’ world, but the horror of life in Nazi Occupied Holland. History is retold in relentless detail through the tragedies lived by people who become as real to us as our own family. The Occupied Garden is a triumphant refusal to accept the silence that erases the past.”
– Rosemary Sullivan, author of Villa Air-Bel: World War II, Escape, and a House in Marseille
“A dramatic and moving account of the World War II occupation of The Netherlands and its subsequent liberation by Canadian troops as seen through the lens of one Dutch family's experiences. The Occupied Garden is a fine read.”
– Mark Zuehlke, author of Terrible Victory: First Canadian Army and the Scheldt Estuary Campaign, September 13–November 6, 1944
“A personal, unsentimental, intensely compelling ‘memoir.’. . . The tiny, mundane details of these very ordinary lives are brilliantly interwoven with the colossal events and backwash of all-out war that move the story relentlessly, sometimes breathlessly, forward. . . . As in a painting by Seurat, the masses (‘dots’) of information meticulously build up, slowly, vividly, revealing the many personalities and the devastating times.”
– Ernest Hillen, Globe and Mail
“This is a fascinating, informative, beautifully written book.”
– Winnipeg Free Press