Monday, June 11, 2012

River in the Sea: Review and Giveaway

There are many compelling books about World War II, and I began this story with the hope that I might add to my list of noteworthy novels.   Written by Tina Boscha, a new indie author, River in the Sea is a literary novel about a young girl, Leentje De Graff, growing up during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.  Set in the province Friesland of the Netherlands in 1944, this book was published in 2012, and although it's fictional, the story was inspired by events from the past of the author's mother and her family. 

"It was then that the real fear began, the simultaneous heat and cold of it, the absolute rush of thought and adrenaline that flowed from the recognition that what was happening was true and severe and horrific. What would they do to her?  Leen began to shake."
~River in the Sea, Tina Boscha

As the story begins, Leentje, Leen for short, is the fifteen-year-old protagonist in River in the Sea.  Instead of attending school, Leen works in Dokkum (a town near her home in Wierum) as a maid for Baker Deinum and his wife, six days a week, and also helps out at home, because her mother is still grieving over the loss of a child. While driving her father's truck home from her job one Saturday,  Leen feels guilty and is distracted because she's just stolen a packet of salt (a precious commodity during wartime) from her employers, and when a German soldier's dog runs out in front of the truck, she panics and loses control.  To Leen, this event is terrifying, and seems to lead to more trauma for her and the De Graff family during this unsettling time of war.

Church and dike in Wierum
Why did it take me so long to read and review this book?  My excuse is that I have monstrous TBR piles (a natural consequence after you've been blogging about books for a few years), and so I postponed reading this one.  When I finally did settle down with River in the Sea, I was richly rewarded, cast into a different place and time by this imaginative, lyrical novel.  Many of the names of the characters were unfamiliar to me--Leen, Tine, Wopke, and Renske, to name a few--which contributed to the sense that I was truly in a foreign place.  The De Graff family seemed very real and was held together by both grief and love.  Leen, the main character, is a well-drawn, believable character with spunk.  She learned to drive by the time she was twelve, and although Leen's not perfect (she's stubborn, like her father, "Pater", and quite sensitive, like her mother, "Mem"), she tries to be a good person and she loves her family, which make her a likeable main character.  She's part of a fairly large family, and is struggling to have a degree of independence,  but the war makes this especially difficult, because danger lurks outside and there's a true lack of security.  Worry about the war permeates daily life, and girls in particular are advised to be extra careful when they go out, and to avoid the German soldiers at the camp and around town (Leen prefers driving by the camp to bicycling past).  At times life seemed too bleak for Leen (and for me, as a reader), but then she'd be lifted up by her friendship with Minnie, or a shared cigarette break, or by her burgeoning romance, and I'd be relieved and renewed as well.  As Leen breaks away from her family, she enjoys smoking cigarettes (as many did in those times), and is becoming a more independent young woman.  River in the Sea is very well written and I found myself 100% immersed in this coming-of-age story.  Descriptions of underdoek, leaving home to hide from soldiers at night, and the sores caused by a lack of nutrition (and the pungent remedy for them), affected me and will remain long in my memory.  The book is unexpectedly tender and touching, with the war as a backdrop, when German soldiers were an omnipresent, menacing presence.  River in the Sea would be an excellent choice for those interested in World War II fiction.  To enhance my review, the author kindly provided the photo above of a church in Wierum, a small village in Dongeradeel in the province Friesland of the Netherlands, from her mother's collection.

Wonderful news! Tina Boscha is generously offering a copy of River in the Sea as a giveaway (U.S./Canada only) to a lucky reader.

  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment. 
  • For another chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or let me know that you're already a follower, or that you subscribe in Google Reader.
  • For an additional chance, post about this contest on your blog, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. 
  • For one more chance, name a book (fiction or non-fiction) set in or about World War II that you found notable.

Enter by 5PM PDT on Monday, July 2.  One lucky winner will be randomly selected and announced on Tuesday, July 3.  Good luck!

Special thanks to Tina Boscha for sending me a copy of her novel.


  1. My cup of tea, I'm so glad that you found this enjoyable.

  2. Your post nterested me a lot ! I'm just reading Etty Hillesum diaries, a young jewish woman who lived in Netherlands too during the WWII . It's a wonderful and frigheting book. I 'll write a post in a few weeks I think.

    1. Annie, that sounds like a fascinating read! I look forward to your review.

  3. I find historical novels really rewarding to read - a sense of the past and the conflicts that might have occurred there.

  4. No need to enter me, as I have a copy of this one already. Just wanted to say that I'm glad you enjoyed this one so much. I'll have to make time to read it soon. I hear you on having an overflowing to-read tower!

  5. Wonderful review! This sounds like an intriguing novel. I think The Diary of Anne Frank has always been the best WWII book that I've read. The fact that it is true, it heartwrenching. It would be interesting to read about a girl who experienced the war on the outside.

    1. I didn't leave my email address! laarlt78(at)hotmail(dot)com.

  6. TAI would love to read this book. Sounds very

  7. I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed this one so much! I hate when a book that I've agreed to review sits on my shelves for too long but I find that it tends to happen a lot with me :) Adding this one to my TBR list!

  8. This looks like a beautiful read! Thanks for sharing about it.

  9. Oh, my, this sounds like a wonderful and most poignant book. Your review makes me want to dive right in! The sufferings of the Dutch are so often overlooked in WWII literature; I'm glad this is here to illuminate their courage. I have a friend whose mother wrote her memoirs for her family. This reminds me of that work, somewhat. One of the most affecting (and earliest!) books I read about WWII is Fireweed by Jill Paton Walsh--two children alone in London during the Blitz.
    Guess I'm interested--and you know I'm a follower ; )
    Regardless, thank you for presenting this one!!


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