The author tracks down an aging woman who, during World War II, had been taken in by his relatives, hidden from the Nazis, and raised as one of their own—until she ultimately broke with her saviors due to mysterious circumstances.
The narration of the war years has a novelistic feel and takes on the viewpoint of Lien as a child. This method works well to convey the trauma Lien felt after losing her parents ... The book also makes wonderful use of Lien’s childhood poesy book (a kind of autograph book) and family photos and mementos. Van Es sets scenes well, contrasting the Netherlands of the 21st century—with its liberal outlook and high-tech industries—with the far more rural and traditional Netherlands of the 1940s ... though Lien isn’t named as a co-author, her own voice and the story of her survival, not just of the war but also of the decades afterward, come through clearly.
This book is ... both a quest for Holocaust history and a modern-day travelogue, as Van Es follows the footsteps of Lien de Jong to various cities, homes, and buildings in Holland. He brings us along on interviews, and we sit with him in research archives, as he learns facts crucial for setting the scene for Lien’s story and then carrying it forward. All along, Van Es also closely observes how these places appear currently, and as travelers often do, he juxtaposes modern serenity with World War II chaos. He also helps us understand the impact Lien’s experiences during the Holocaust had on her personality, and why, later in life, she turned to Buddhist practice to help her cope with her memories ... This is an unusual, multilayered story about interpersonal and family dynamics set against the horrors of the Holocaust. It is well worth reading.
In this graceful memoir, van Es artfully intertwines two narrative threads, telling Lien’s story and his own, as he struggles to discover the specific reasons for the breach—and to heal it. He bridges the complexities of his account with writing that is fluid and clear, and readers will find themselves swept along on his journey ... The somewhat awkward title—The Cut Out Girl—evokes Lien’s excision from Dutch society, her feelings of isolation and her eventual estrangement from the van Esses. The author situates Lien’s misadventures within the turbulent political landscape of the Netherlands, where currents of courage and resistance flowed alongside cowardice, collaboration and anti-Semitism.