Book Review: Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II by Robert Matzen

Audrey Hepburn on war: ” I wouldn’t have missed it for the world-anything that happens to you is valuable.” 

Thank you, Sarah, from Smith Publicity for sending the ARC of Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II by Robert Matzen.

Robert Matzen records the life of Audrey Hepburn, a movie star who was known for her humanitarian work beyond Hollywood. This book starts with a touching note from Audrey’s daughter, Luca Dotti. The write-up describes Audrey as a doting mother who didn’t let her superstar status affect her kids. Luca warmly remembers her mother’s knack of turning her wartime anecdotes into bedtime stories. As we read further, the book starts slightly before Audrey’s birth as the author fleshes out her family’s history.

Audrey was born in Belgium to Baroness Ella van Heemstra and Joseph Victor Anthony Ruston. Contrary to her mother’s outgoing personality, Audrey was a shy and reticent child. During that time, Hitler’s control over Europe was mushrooming along with Audrey’s growth. At a tender age, her motherland come under Hitler’s rule, almost overnight. Although her mother wasn’t an overly emotional parent, it was she who watered Audrey’s interest in ballet, and after a few months of practice it gained her popularity as a ballet star. This also became a base for her acting career at a blooming age of 21.

Dutch Girl has deep dived into Audrey Hepburn’s personality beyond just the image that the world witnessed on the big screen. Not many of us recognise her as an empathetic and caring human that she was. More importantly, growing up in the wartime moulded her in adulthood. The author also describes the traumas and successes of Audrey’s life, making the readers feel as if they are witnessing it in front of their eyes.

Just like her movies, this book flew by like a motion picture with me seeing myself as Audrey’s imaginary friend. The next time I watch any of her superhit movies, I won’t be able to stop thinking about this book. I am sure, Audrey might be giving Dutch Girl a thumbs up from heaven.

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