THREE ORDINARY GIRLS is an inspiring and timely work of nonfiction about three young women who played a vital role in the World War II Dutch resistance—despite sexism from their commanders.

As a history major, I’m perennially fascinated by true stories of exceptional women. As someone with Jewish family, I struggle when reading about the Holocaust. Obviously, I started this book with dueling emotions. But I was instantly swept up in the history of the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. I knew little about this, despite a lifelong fascination with Anne Frank.

When the story opens, we meet two teenage sisters, living in near-poverty in the Dutch town of Haarlem. Their government, attempting to stay neutral in the war, is unprepared for the German invasion. But Truus and Freddie come from a politically active family and immediately engage in minor acts of rebellion against the Nazis. Meanwhile, at the University of Amsterdam, a young law student from a more privileged background leaves her studies to join the resistance.

Hannie, Truus, and Freddie go from carefree teenagers to gun-carrying soldiers. By their early twenties, they’re saboteurs, assassins, and legendary freedom fighters in the same resistance cell. At one point Truus undertakes an incredibly dangerous mission to save a group of Jewish children. My heart pounded throughout that chapter, as it did in many of the later scenes.

Even as the war winds down across Europe, and Auschwitz is liberated, change comes slowly to the Netherlands, and the women take on more and more risk. As they do so, it’s impossible to put the book down.

Years after the war, they would be honored and celebrated as heroes. (Yes, I got so caught up in their stories, I went down the research rabbit hole!)

I highly recommend this book not only to history buffs, but to anyone who enjoys discovering true stories about courageous women who helped change history.

Publication date is February 23rd.

 

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