Featured Slider

Historical Fiction Must Read: The Lioness of Leiden by Robert Loewen


Thanks to Smith Publicity for sending this copy over in exchange for a review. All thoughts are my own. 

I have been an avid reader since I was a child. Whether it was to "win" rewards for the Pizza Hut Book- it programs, to prevent boredom during days accompanying my dad on his landscape business, or just a thirst for adventures & knowledge, I've loved reading. In college and grad school, a lot of my reading was focused on academics, but I still found time for fiction here and there. In adult life, I still read books to enhance my skills and work life knowledge, but I often find myself gravitating towards nonfiction romance and historical fiction. 

It wasn't until recently that I discovered I truly enjoy historical fiction. Some might disagree, but I find the reality juxtaposed with fictional stories rather fascinating. It is interesting to note the events that really unfolded in cultural, religious, and historical ways but also know that what I'm reading still has a bit of mystique to it as it was not totally true.

If you are a historical fiction reader, then Robert Loewen's latest book is especially for you. The Lioness of Leiden focus on the true facts of the female Dutch Resistance during WWII but also intertwines the fictional life story of its main character.  As Germany overtook Holland in the 1940s, a university student named Hetty joins the Dutch resistance to fight against the Nazi's. With two friends, she and others try to protect Jews, pilots, and others hiding from the Nazi's. Fighting for her own life and others she loves, Hetty joins in on a movement that is filled with dangerous assignments and challenges. Will she survive? 

Loewen's book is actually based upon the true life experiences held by his mother-in-law, who was a brave supporter of the Dutch resistance when the Nazi regime overtook Holland and her hometown. Hetty Kraus, a Leiden University student from Holland, did serve in the Dutch resistance. She did have friends die from the horrors of war and did have friends who spent time in the many concentration camps that popped up across Europe due to the Nazi's control and classism.

I'll be honest, this is a hard book to read. It's not a light fictional romance novel, although there is plenty in it. It is filled with pages about war, about the terrors of fleeing, hiding, and surviving against those who want complete control. Its pages filled with the way people were treated as second class citizens. It's filled with pages of betrayal against those who did help the Nazi's and died anyway. It's filled with pages about rape, violence, bombs, and more. It took me a while to get through it and I had to put it down at various points because the material, although gripping, was difficult to read at times as it could be graphic. 

Yes, this novel shares the true horrors that real-life people faced on a daily basis. Also, the horrors that those who survived still relive, probably even to this day. Yet, this novel also portrays themes of love. It took a special kind of person to fight against those horrors. Yet, both the real-life Hettie and fictional character Hetty did so. It shows the guts, the determination, and the love for others that those who joined the resistance really had. 

It makes me wonder what I would do in that situation. I've never even come close to facing war as part of my daily reality, so I do not know. I can see how difficult it would be to make decisions while fearing for my own life. I can see why people, like Hetty's father, failed to stand up and fight. Does that make it right? No. But, this novel does show the hard truths that people face when in war. 

The Lioness of Leiden explores themes of compassion, of determination, of love, and of self-sacrifice in this must-read story. It might take you a bit to get into it. It might take you longer to get through than a regular novel would. You might have to set the book down several times as you encounter the horrors that people faced. Yet, I encourage you to read it. Read it and ponder the truth in it. Read it and look at how you treat people in your own life. Read it and find ways to advocate for and support those who are marginalized in your own community. Although this story is set during a horrible war, its truths haven't left the world today. People still encounter daily violence. Still encounter judgement just based on where they were born. Yet, there is still much love in the world and people are ready and waiting to fight, just like Hetty did

Overall, I highly enjoyed this novel and hope that Loewen writes more in the future. His writing style is easy to understand. It's obvious he listened well to Hetty Kraus when she told her stories and also did his own research when discussing the war and facts related to the resistance effort in Holland. The compelling love story intertwined added a nice inclusion to help the reader gain more insight into why the characters acted the way they did. I highly recommend this novel if you are looking for a new read, but just be warned that it's not exactly "light" reading materials. It's easy to understand, but its graphic material can be hard to "stomach" at times, especially learning about & knowing the atrocities that humans committed upon others for the namesake of power and control. 

About the Author: "Robert Loewen was born in Bakersfield, grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and raised his three children in Laguna Beach. A 1970 graduate of Pomona College, Robert served two years in the United States Army, including a tour in Vietnam. His 1972 marriage linked him to Hetty Kraus, his mother-in-law, who told fascinating stories about her experiences in the Dutch Resistance during World War II. After a year of serving as a law clerk to Justice Byron White at the United States Supreme Court, Robert returned to California in 1977, where he built a successful litigation practice at an international law firm. Known for his persuasive legal briefs, he has always been a natural storyteller who yearned to write fiction. Now retired, Robert has published his debut novel, a fictional history of Hetty's life in the Dutch resistance." 

Want it? Get it!

Published April 04, grab this book from Amazon or your favorite bookstore. 

This would make an excellent book club read and bookclub questions are even available to download!

No comments

We love hearing from you! Thanks for leaving us some comment love! If you're a new follower, please leave your link, so we can follow you back!

Sleep Tight with Sweet Night!

New Year Sale - Up to 40% OFF