Reviewed By: Susan Keefe
Susan Keefe reviews novels, poetry and non-fiction books for TheColumbiaReview.com
The postwoman is author Michael Kenneth Smith’s third historical novel. It is outstanding as it shines a well-deserved light on the true story of an amazingly brave young woman, Andrée (Dedee) de Jongh, a formidable member of the Resistance in WWII.
At the beginning of WWII many English airmen were shot down and sent to Belgian hospitals. Dedee, although trained as a commercial artist, volunteered to work as a nursing assistant one such hospital. Her ingenuity and soft spot for airmen meant that she saved many from being sent to the German work camps, when the SS Officers toured the beds looking for new workers. However, she wanted to do more. She lived at home with her father Paul in the Schaerbeek District of Brussels. From childhood she had had a deep admiration for the famous French fighter pilot Jean Mermoz, who was a WWI hero in Syria. This, and her loathing of the Germans, led her to convince her father to help her set up an escape route for English airmen, across the Pyrenees, and into Spain, then ultimately home.
With help from like-minded friends, she did just that. Through ingenuity, hard work, clever tactics, and experience, she and the safe houses’ owners, trail guides, forgers, and others who made up the escape route, helped many English airmen to return home. She convinced the English Embassy to assist her, and they gave her the nickname of ‘The Postwoman.’ With the horrors of war ever present, foremost in their minds was the knowledge that if they were caught they would suffer torture or worse. However the small childish frame of Dedee meant that she got away with things others couldn’t, and it is this, her bravery and her determination which enabled this inspiring young woman to remain at liberty for so long helping others despite the danger to herself.
However, she was eventually captured, tortured, and sent to the Ravensbruck woman’s concentration camp. The horrors of the experiences endured in these camps are clearly portrayed by the author, and he graphically describes the lives of the prisoners under incarceration.
When times are hard everyone needs something to cling on to. Dedee needed to see a future after the war. One encounter, and the fantasy of feelings it awoke in her at the time, kept her resilient and gave her the strength to go on when she feared she might fail. Even the strongest of us need to believe in something. But, if she does survive the war, will her fantasy turned into reality? That’s for the reader to discover.
In Summary: This is a truly amazing account of the wartime experiences of this inspiring young woman. It is a story everyone should read, take to their hearts and feel grateful for the opportunity to be living in the world we do today, free because of people like Dedee. Highly Recommended! – Susan Keefe for TheColumbiaReview.com