A Story of War and Family, Lost and Found
The enthralling story of a man's search for the truth about his family's past.
The Costa Book of the Year 2018
The last time Lien saw her parents was in the Hague when she was collected at the door by a stranger and taken to a city far away to be hidden from the Nazis.
She was raised by her foster family as one of their own, but a falling out well after the war meant they were no longer in touch. What was her side of the story, Bart van Es - a grandson of the couple who looked after Lien - wondered? What really happened during the war, and after?
So began an investigation that would consume and transform both Bart van Es's life and Lien's. Lien was now in her 80s and living in Amsterdam. Reluctantly, she agreed to meet him, and eventually they struck up a remarkable friendship. The Cut Out Girl braids together a powerful recreation of Lien's intensely harrowing childhood story with the present-day account of Bart's efforts to piece that story together. And it embraces the wider picture, too, for Holland was more cooperative in rounding up its Jews for the Nazis than any other Western European country; that is part of Lien's story too.
This is an astonishing, moving reckoning with a young girl's struggle for survival during war. It is a story about the powerful love and challenges of foster families, and about the ways our most painful experiences - so crucial in defining us - can also be redefined.
Superb. This is a necessary book - painful, harrowing, tragic, but also uplifting (The Times Book of the Week)
Deeply moving. Writes with an almost Sebaldian simplicity and understatement (Guardian)
Astonishing. Van Es has created a masterpiece of history and memoir, concluding on a note of reconciliation, hope and great love (Evening Standard)
Deeply moving, this is a remarkable memoir (Sunday Times)
Publisher: Penguin Books
WINNER OF THE COSTA BOOK OF THE YEAR 2018
WINNER OF THE SLIGHTLY FOXED BEST FIRST BIOGRAPHY PRIZE 2018
A SUNDAY TIMES PAPERBACK OF THE YEAR 2019
'A masterpiece of history and memoir' Evening Standard
'Superb. This is a necessary book - painful, harrowing, tragic, but also uplifting' The Times
Little Lien wasn't taken from her Jewish parents in the Hague - she was given away in the hope that she might be saved. Hidden and raised by a foster family in the provinces during the Nazi occupation, she survived the war only to find that her real parents had not. Much later, she fell out with her foster family, and Bart van Es - the grandson of Lien's foster parents - knew he needed to find out why.
His account of tracing Lien and telling her story is a searing exploration of two lives and two families. It is a story about love and misunderstanding and about the ways that our most painful experiences - so crucial in defining us - can also be redefined.
'Luminous, elegant, haunting - I read it straight through' Philippe Sands, author of East West Street
'Deeply moving. Writes with an almost Sebaldian simplicity and understatement' Guardian
'Sensational and gripping . . . shedding light on some of the most urgent issues of our time' Judges of the Costa Book of the Year 2018
About the Author
Bart van Es was born in the Netherlands and is bilingual in English and Dutch. He now lives with his family in England. He is a Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of St Catherine's College.