REVIEW: “Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II”

“Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II” by Robert Matzen

Hardcover, 400 pages

Published April 15, 2019, by GoodKnight Books

ISBN: 1732273537


Twenty-five years after her passing, Audrey Hepburn remains the most beloved of all Hollywood stars, known as much for her role as UNICEF ambassador as for films like Roman Holiday and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Several biographies have chronicled her stardom, but none has covered her intense experiences through five years of Nazi occupation in the Netherlands. According to her son, Luca Dotti, “The war made my mother who she was.” Audrey Hepburn’s war included participation in the Dutch Resistance, working as a doctor’s assistant during the “Bridge Too Far” battle of Arnhem, the brutal execution of her uncle, and the ordeal of the Hunger Winter of 1944. She also had to contend with the fact that her father was a Nazi agent and her mother was pro-Nazi for the first two years of the occupation. But the war years also brought triumphs as Audrey became Arnhem’s most famous young ballerina. Audrey’s own reminiscences, new interviews with people who knew her in the war, wartime diaries, and research in classified Dutch archives shed light on the riveting, untold story of Audrey Hepburn under fire in World War II. Also included is a section of color and black-and-white photos. Many of these images are from Audrey’s personal collection and are published here for the first time.


My review

I’ve been a fan of Audrey Hepburn for years and have read several books about her. I even gave a presentation about her life in my college speech class. But never have I read anything so thoroughly researched regarding the formative years she spent in Nazi-occupied Holland during World War II. This book dispelled much of the mystery and confusion regarding that period of her life, which she rarely spoke about for a number of reasons.

I was very impressed with the amount of detail in “Dutch Girl.” Matzen did a great job of describing what was going on in the environment in which Audrey and her family lived during World War II. I’ve long admired the writings of Anne Frank, so imagine my surprise to learn that the editor working on Anne’s manuscript was a neighbor of Audrey’s and allowed her to read it before it was published. There were many parallels between the lives of the two girls, so much so that Audrey turned down an offer to portray Anne in a movie because “it’s too close, and in a way, she was my soul sister…”

“Dutch Girl” is a must-read for fans of Audrey and anyone interested in World War II history.

About the author

Author bio and photo courtesy of Goodreads

Robert Matzen is the author of eight books, including the bestsellers Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe and Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3, which won the 2015 ‘Biography of the Year’ Benjamin Franklin Award and earned praise from the Smithsonian Institution.

His forthcoming Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II, involved three years of intense research and several trips to the Netherlands, where Audrey spent the war. He worked in close consultation with Luca Dotti, Audrey Hepburn’s younger son, and with many Dutch citizens who survived the war with Audrey in the town of Velp.

Robert has appeared on the BBC, Talk Radio Europe, Radio Russia, and many U.S. television and radio outlets, including NPR. His previous print work includes many articles about classic films and national bylines for the Wall Street Journal and other news outlets. His work as a filmmaker earned national awards and his feature documentary about George Washington, When the Forest Ran Red, is a genre classic that premiered on PBS in 2001. He is a former communications professional for NASA, where he spent 10 years.

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