Debut Novel The Safekeep Explores Forbidden Love and Dark Secrets in 1960s Netherlands

The Safekeep, a debut novel by Yael van der Wouden, tells the story of Isabel, a young woman in 1961 Netherlands, who uncovers dark secrets about her family's past and the treatment of Jews in post-war Netherlands through her secret affair with her brother's girlfriend Eva. Set in the Dutch countryside, the novel explores themes of forbidden queer desire, family secrets, and the historical treatment of Jews, shedding light on a dark chapter in Dutch history." This description focuses on the primary topic (the novel and its themes), main entities (Isabel, Eva, and Yael van der Wouden), context (1961 Netherlands), and significant actions (Isabel's affair and discovery of family secrets). It also provides objective and relevant details that will help an AI generate an accurate visual representation of the article's content, such as the setting and themes.

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Debut Novel The Safekeep Explores Forbidden Love and Dark Secrets in 1960s Netherlands

Debut Novel The Safekeep Explores Forbidden Love and Dark Secrets in 1960s Netherlands

Yael van der Wouden's debut novel The Safekeep, published by Viking, is a captivating romantic story set in the Netherlands during the summer of 1961. The novel follows Isabel, a young woman living with her family in the Dutch countryside, as she begins a secret affair with her brother's girlfriend Eva and uncovers dark secrets about her family's past and the treatment of Jews in post-war Netherlands.

Why this matters: The novel sheds light on a dark chapter in Dutch history, highlighting the ongoing impact of the Holocaust on individual lives and relationships. By exploring the treatment of Jewish survivors in post-war Netherlands, The Safekeep encourages readers to confront and learn from the past, promoting greater understanding and empathy.

The Safekeep explores themes of forbidden queer desire, family secrets, and the historical treatment of Jews in the Netherlands after the Holocaust. Isabel's sexual awakening and her affair with Eva lead her to discover the real story behind her family's fully furnished house in the east Netherlands, where they moved in 1944 to escape the famine in the west.

The novel's prose is tightly crafted, with precise descriptions of intimate moments between the two women. "They were at eye level like this: Isabel kneeling, Eva perched on the bed's edge." The story takes a sudden shift in perspective in the third act when Isabel decides to read Eva's diary, drawing on historical research into the treatment of Jewish survivors in the Netherlands after the war.

Yael van der Wouden first gained attention with her 2017 essay "On (Not) Reading Anne Frank," which recounted her experiences of anti-Semitism after moving from Israel to the Netherlands as a child. The Safekeep marks her <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/books/what-to-read/review-safekeep-yael-van-der-wouden/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">debut as a novelist, delving into a pivotal time in Dutch history and its impact on individual lives and relationships.

While the novel's prose is praised for its precision, some critics note that the writing occasionally overdoes details, particularly when describing the weather. The author's handling of Isabel's political awakening in the final section has also been questioned, with the ending feeling influenced by modern queer romance conventions.

The Safekeep offers a compelling exploration of forbidden love, family secrets, and the historical treatment of Jews in post-war Netherlands. Through the story of Isabel and Eva's affair, Yael van der Wouden sheds light on a dark chapter in Dutch history, drawing on accounts of Jewish survivors being billed for "outstanding taxes" on unoccupied properties after the Holocaust. The novel is a testament to the enduring impact of the past on individual lives and relationships.

Key Takeaways

  • Debut novel "The Safekeep" by Yael van der Wouden explores forbidden queer love and dark Dutch history.
  • Set in 1961 Netherlands, the novel uncovers family secrets and the treatment of Jews post-Holocaust.
  • The story follows Isabel's affair with her brother's girlfriend Eva and her discovery of family secrets.
  • The novel sheds light on a dark chapter in Dutch history, promoting understanding and empathy.
  • The author's debut novel is a testament to the enduring impact of the past on individual lives.