Book review: War Winter by Jan Terlouw
War winter of Jan Terlouw. A classic children’s book, awarded a Gouden Griffel in 1973. The story of the young Michiel, who willingly ends up in the resistance and who is faced with great responsibilities when he has to care for a wounded British soldier during WWII. The story of the book, compared to the story of the TV series of the same name.
Jan Terlouw’s War Winter: the book
Michiel is a sixteen-year-old boy, son of the mayor. Because of the war he can no longer go to school and so he spends his days doing all kinds of odd jobs to get money and food. The mayor also always welcomes people who are on the run or who need shelter to regain their strength. The mayor is therefore not very German-minded and that is not appreciated. Uncle Ben also pops in regularly. He works for the resistance and has his connections. Michiel’s fairly quiet life turns when his friend Dirk entrusts him with a letter, which he has to give to Bertus from Lagezande if something happens to Dirk. After all, Dirk is going to raid the distribution office. A pretty risky venture. Dirk is caught by the Germans. Michiel tries to get the letter to Bertus, but due to all kinds of setbacks it does not reach Bertus. When he does get there the next day, it appears that Bertus has been arrested by the Germans. Michiel first wants to destroy the letter, but then decides to read it anyway. It says that a wounded British soldier must be taken care of. Without actually wanting to, Michiel gets involved in the resistance. He has to get food for the Brit called Jack. He succeeds quite well, but when the wound needs to be treated, Michiel has to enlist the help of his sister. Erica takes care of Jack and they fall in love. Erica regularly brings Jack a treat.
When a murdered German is found in the forest, a number of men from the village are arrested by the Germans. One of them is Michael’s father. First, four men are executed. The next day the other men are released, but in order not to lose face, Michiel’s father is also executed by the Germans. So the family must continue to manage without the man of the house.
After the raid in Amsterdam, thousands of people pass through Michiel’s village. They are taken to a camp a little further on. One night two escaped Jews end up with Michael’s family. Michiel is going to help them cross the Ijssel. For this he gets the help of a baroness, with whom a number of Germans are billeted. He succeeds in transferring the Jews, dressed as peasant women, but a few days later the baroness has to pay with her life.
Michiel’s surprise is great when one day he finds Dirk in Jack’s hiding place. Dirk swears to him that he has not spoken, despite the many tortures he has endured. Who is then the great traitor in the village? Who is everyone going to report to the Germans?
Everyone suspects Schafter, because he often stands with the Germans and because he is always around when something happens again. Michael concocts a trick to lure him out of his tent. His plan works, but is this proof that Schafter is the traitor?
Jack keeps getting better and wants to get back to work. Michael enlists Uncle Ben to smuggle Jack back to England. Whether that ends well? Read and you will find out. Little by little, all the puzzle pieces fall into place and you understand how everything works. Things are not always what they seem, as it will turn out this time! Not all bad guys are bad, and not all good people are good.
Details of the book
Title: Winter of War
Writer: Jan Terlouw
Year: January 1972
Publisher: Lemniscaat / Rotterdam
ISBN: 90 5637 519 9
The book has won several awards:
- in 1973: Gouden Griffel
- Honor List Hans Christian Andersen
- in 1974: Jury in Rio de Janeiro
Winter of War: the TV series
The TV series from September 1975 directed by Aart Staartjes has been available on DVD since 2005. It consists of three discs, each with a number of episodes of approximately 25 minutes each. The total playing time is 325 minutes. The DVD was produced by www.vara.nl/www.videofilmexpress.nl. Every episode starts just the same, or so it seems when one isn’t watching carefully. A British pilot shoots a group of German soldiers. However, a small detail is added to each episode and eventually it turns out to be the British pilot Jack. The leading roles include: Paul Röttger, Leontien Ceulemans, Lies Franken, Ton Lensink and Sacco v / d Made.
Comparison book and TV series
The TV series is much more extensive than the book. It shows a lot more details about the war. For example, a pastor comes to preach to the hikers, one can see very extensively how the Germans are billeted with the Baroness and how they come for tea every afternoon, etc.
The book also contains much more gruesome details than shown in the TV series. When Michiel cycles to Lagezande for the first time with the letter for Bertus, he is shot at by a British plane. In the TV series, no one is injured and everyone continues after the attack. In the book, the Germans’ vehicle is hit, burns out and the Germans have to continue on foot. On the other hand, the TV series shows how Jack is shot from the tree by a German, while in the book this is not talked about much later, when Jack and Dirk tell their version of the story. In the book, Jack tells how he crawled to the hideout and what an atrocity this was. In the TV series, no attention is paid to that.
The meeting between Jack and Erica is also different. In the TV series, Michiel suddenly says everything to his sister. So she knows that it is a British pilot. He just leads her to his hideout. In the book, she initially doesn’t know who Jack is. Michiel also brings his sister to the hiding place blindfolded. Nevertheless, she manages to memorize the road and next time she goes to Jack on her own, much against Michiel’s wishes. In both stories they fall in love with each other.
Winter of war: the film
In 2008 a Dutch cinema film of the book will be released. The producer is Martin Koolhoven. Again, there are a number of differences between book and film. Michael’s little brother Jochem, Meester Postma and the Baroness, for example, do not appear in the film. In the film, the father is executed in front of Michiel and Michiel tries to smuggle Jack across the Ijssel himself.
Winter of war: the musical
On October 1, 2011, the musical War Winter premiered. The creators of this musical is the NJMT (the National Youth Musical Theater), which previously also produced the musicals Kruistocht in Spijkerbroek and Narnia. The musical War Winter ran until the end of May 2012 in various Dutch theaters. Soy Kroon played the role of Michiel. Other players were Janke Dekkers and Timo Descamps. The striking new techniques used on stage are beautiful.