When I started to read Journey Through the Night to my youngest daughters, they expected to be bored. However, by the third paragraph one of them jumped up. “What! John does judo?” The other one was interested by the next page. As the story moved on, they begged for chapter after chapter. Once, when I could not read aloud any longer, I stayed behind in the lawn chair and, forgetting all my duties, finished the entire book even though I had read it many times before! When I talk to others who have read this book, they invariably tell me how wonderful it was.
So, what is this amazing book? Journey Through the Night follows John and his family through the five years of Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Written by one of the country’s most popular novelists, this commissioned book became one of the country’s favorite war stories.
John and his family, shocked by the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands, drive across the country to pick up his little sister. They encounter their first German soldier, have their first crisis of conscience, and inevitably become deeply involved in the resistance as the war drags on. Throughout the novel, the author’s deep understanding of human nature makes the reader identify with John’s responses to the war, the occupation, the ethical dilemmas, the beautiful Sylvia, and the intrepid nurse Rita. Nowhere is the horror of war minimized, but the goodness of God does shine throughout the endless years of suffering, doubt, and heart-wrenching decisions.
Although Journey Through the Night is about a teen, it is not only for teens. It’s one of those books everyone should read at least once, and it’s worth a reread every decade for the intense humanity and deep thoughtfulness that runs through all the exciting events. Also, it gives a nuanced and eyewitness account of World War 2 that will benefit any high school student studying those years. (I should definitely have included it in my list of Top 20 Books to Read Aloud since it is better than many of the other ones on the list.)
- This is a realistic war story, so violence happens. Although the violence is not celebrated in any way and gruesome details are not emphasized, this book is not suitable for young children.
- It helps to know Dutch geography, but it is not necessary; the events are easy to follow even if you don’t know where they are happening.
- As with most translated books, the English does not quite flow effortlessly. However, the story is exciting enough that even I did not notice it while reading aloud.
Journey Through the Night by Anne de Vries is not available from major booksellers but can be bought directly from Inheritance Publications.
Disclosure: I borrowed an English version of this book from a friend and am not compensated for sharing my opinions.