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Posted October 31, 2006
For a Lost Soldier is an artfully told story of love and loss during wartime. The author skillfully creates the mood of uncertainty and lurking danger in the opening pages when eleven year old Jeroen is about to be separated from his family for the first time in his life, due to food shortages in German-occupied Amsterdam. The dangerous journey to Friesland, the homesickness he feels upon his arrival, his introduction into a family mildly disappointed that they did not receive the expected girl evacuee, and the insensitivity of a pious teacher who humiliates him when, overwhelmed by the changes that have been forced upon him, he breaks down in tears in class: these are all conveyed in painfully believable scenes in this English translation of the original Dutch. Van Dantzig makes 1944 Friesland so rich in detail--visual, auditory and olfactory--that the reader experiences palpable fear when months pass without young Jeroen hearing from his parents. So we are as vulnerable as Jeroen when, in the giddy days of liberation in 1945, he meets Walt--a young Canadian (erroneously believed by Jeroen to be American) who, with his status of liberator, is a God-like being who could theoretically do no wrong. Much has been said about the relationship between Walt and Jeroun, as well it should be, for it is the most forbidden type of relationship possible. But approaching For a Lost Soldier as literature rather than social commentary, one has to admire van Dantzig's ability to coerce the reader into assessing what happens between these two humans from Jeroen's point of view. And from that perspective, we see that exploitation is only one of the calamitous things that can happen to a child during wartime. There is a startling revelation about how the events of 1945 color the world of an adult Jeroen thirty five years later. It is impossible to go any further with that thought without spoiling things for the reader. For a Lost Soldier leaves its reader with that unsettled feeling that comes over us when we have become so immersed in the life of a protagonist that when the novel ends we hardly feel capable of setting the book aside and going on with our own lives.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.