Title: Snow on the Tulips by Liz Tolsma
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Historical, Christian, Fiction, Romance
Length: 336 pages
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
A stranger’s life hangs in the balance. But to save him is to risk everything.
The war is drawing to a close, but the Nazis still occupy part of the Netherlands. After the losses she’s endured, war widow Cornelia is only a shadow of the woman she once was. She fights now to protect her younger brother, Johan, who lives in hiding.
When Johan brings Gerrit Laninga, a wounded Dutch Resistance member, to Cornelia’s doorstep, their ives are forever altered. Although scared of the consequences of harboring a wanted man, Cornelia’s faith won’t let her turn him out.
As she nurses Gerrit back to health, she is drawn to his fierce passion and ideals, and notices a shift within herself. Gerrit’s intensity challenges her, making her want to live fully, despite the fear that constrains her. When the opportunity to join him in the Resistance presents itself, Cornelia must summon every ounce of courage imaginable.
She is as terrified of loving Gerrit as she is of losing him. But as the winter landscape thaws, so too does her heart. Will she get a second chance at true love? She fears their story will end before it even begins.
Based on true events, Liz Tolsma’s Snow on the Tulips is a fascinating novel that takes place in a Nazi occupied town in the Netherlands. Set in the months leading up to the liberation by Canadian soldiers, it is a suspense-laden story that will keep you on the edge of your seat as Cornelia de Vries risks her life as she hides her brother Johan and Dutch Resistance fighter Gerrit Laninga from the Gestapo.
Cornelia lost her husband on the first day the Nazis invaded the Netherlands and she is determined not to lose her brother Johan too. Hiding with relatives in the country for much of the war, once Johan’s safety was compromised, he was forced to return to the family home in town. Cornelia has diligently worked to keep her brother’s presence a secret and she is horrified when he brings Gerrit, the lone survivor of an execution that took the lives of several Dutch Resistance workers, into their home. She reluctantly agrees to allow him to stay them while he recovers. Gerrit needs more help than Cornelia can provide and she is enlists the aid of their sister, Anki, who is also a nurse. Cornelia is soon struggling to keep both Gerrit and Johan out of the hands of the Nazis and Anki finds herself at odds with her husband Piet as she continues to provide medical aid to those in need.
In the beginning, Gerrit and Cornelia’s perspectives on the war could not be more different. Cornelia just wants to survive until the Allies free them from the German occupation and she goes quietly about her business. She is also still deeply mourning the loss of her husband and cannot imagine giving her heart to another man, let alone one whose decisions put him in harm’s way.
Gerrit fervently fights for what he believes in with no regard for his personal safety. Although he narrowly escaped death, he is eager to resume his work for the Dutch underground. Betrayed be someone he once cared deeply for, Gerrit, too, protects his heart.
The secondary cast of characters is superbly developed and each of them brings a unique perspective to the novel. Johan is young and idealistic and his eagerness to be part of the action leads to careless and sometimes costly mistakes. Anki finds herself struggling to be a submissive wife while still staying true to her own beliefs and ideals. Piet’s faith leads him to mindlessly follow orders regardless of the consequences. Cornelia’s elderly boss, Frou de Bruin is quite feisty and her role takes an unexpected turn late in the story.
The romance between Cornelia and Gerrit is beautifully depicted and their love brings unanticipated changes for the couple. Cornelia is devastated when Gerrit resumes his resistance efforts and she continues to protect herself from further heartbreak. Both of their viewpoints are challenged by unfolding events and when Gerrit’s participation in the Dutch underground becomes more dangerous, Cornelia is faced with a life-altering decision. Just as the Allies are about to defeat the Nazis, Gerrit’s life hangs in the balance and assistance comes from an unlikely collaborator.
All of the characters are deeply spiritual and for me, one of the most interesting facets of Snow on the Tulips is how their different beliefs shaped their reactions to the war. Various Bible passages impacted the roles they decided to take and often dictated their actions. Scripture and prayer are essential to the storyline and their inclusion complements the overall plot.
With Snow on the Tulips, Liz Tolsma shines a much needed light on a part of history that is often overlooked. She brings the novel vibrantly to life with a sympathetic and likable cast of characters and a tension-filled storyline. A history lesson that I will not soon forget, I highly recommend this incredible story to fans of historical fiction set during WWII.