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The Boat Runner: A Novel by Devin Murphy

The Boat Runner: A Novel

by Devin Murphy

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This coming of age war story is a powerful page turner. While it successfully deals with Holland’s invasion and occupation by Nazi Germany and the loyalty struggles the Dutch were faced with, it also addresses the unspeakable human savagery that takes place during war. As I read this book, I was reminded of a statement I heard on Ken Burns' ongoing Vietnam documentary (paraphrased): "Tigers kill, but only to eat, where humans kill simply to murder." No one wins during war, as this novel aptly reveals. A worthwhile read. ( )
  BALE | Oct 2, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A powerful story of a young Dutch boy coming of age at the beginning of WWII. Through Jacob's eyes we see the attraction of the Nazi's story and why he chooses to do many of the things he does as his family disappears one by one. Once he realizes the true horror of the Nazi's goal to purge the world of all the people they consider unfit, he searches for redemption and a way to come to terms with the devastation of the war both to Germany and to the rest of the world. Jacob is not easy to like and the author does not make a hero of this boy. The choices he makes are often thoughtless and cruel, but throughout his journey he recalls over and over the power of stories and how these stories bind us together and help us get through the dark times. ( )
  dallenbaugh | Oct 1, 2017 |
The book takes place in Denmark before and during the German occupation. The main character is a young man on the brink of adulthood. After his brother drowns (he believes thru his fault) and his father flees (after sabotaging a factory), he is emotionally mixed up. Before his father dies he sends the boys to a German boys camp (preparing them for combat). After the father leaves the boy questions who is causing all the problems. Then his mother is killed in a factory explosion and he decides the Allies are to blame and joins the Germany navy. His uncle is a secretly killing Nazi soldiers and doing whatever he can to stop the invasion. The problem is that his personal journey becomes to full of thoughts and words. You knew where it was all leading but became too lengthy for my liking. ( )
  joannemonck | Oct 1, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The Boat Runner by Devin Murphy was a well-written, well-researched, engaging historical novel, but it was also incredibly intense. This was not an easy story to read; it was heart-breaking in fact, and the characters endured such grief, tragedy and heartache that this reader was left numb.

That being said, It was a fascinating, emotional read about the invasion of the Nazis into Holland and the impact WWII had on the Dutch Communities, their residents, and the young boys who unwittingly became part of the Nazi campaign. Be prepared for a brutal, violent, devastating read. Recommended ( )
  2LZ | Sep 28, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Jacob Koopman is a very young fourteen year old living in Delfzijl, Holland, in 1939. By the end of the novel Jacob is a very old twenty year old. His small town is across the estuary from Germany so there are many local ties to that country. His father owns the major business in the town, a light bulb factory, which supports its economy. He is trying to get an exclusive contract with Volkswagen to supply headlights for all their vehicles.

When Mr. Koopman decides to send Jacob and his sixteen year old brother to a Hitler Youth Camp for four weeks, his wife bitterly opposes him. But, he argues, it would be good for business by showing the Germany government that his family is invested in Germany’s future. He does not advocate the Nazi doctrine; he is just a businessman with many responsibilities to his family and town.

Jacob thoroughly enjoys the experience; the shooting and hand-to-hand-combat lessons, the team-building games and races, the marches and songs. He admits that his Jewish teacher does not look like the Jews in the movies the boys watch at night, but the movies are exciting. He really seems unaware of the ideology behind the activities.

At some points I became frustrated with Jacob because he was so naïve. But that is what the author wanted to show…how people could be exposed to Nazi philosophy and have it really not sink in. When the Germans occupy the Dutch town, at first nothing seems too different Only when the Allies’ bombing raids cause too many personal tragedies in his life, does Jacob join the German navy. He sees the Allies, not the Germans, as the people who destroyed his secure life.

Jacob’s journey from an innocent boy to young man who faced with evil redeems himself is a journey worth following. Another strong aspect of this novel is the response of the Dutch people to the crisis. Many tried not to think about it until it affected them personally. When the Germans invaded, they cooperated in order to keep their lifestyles and, later, just to keep their families safe. Some actively collaborated but most kept going through the motions in an attempt to survive. Others, like Jacob’s fisherman uncle, were a part of a resistance who risked their lives to help Jews and other "undesireables" to escape to England. War turns ordinary people into heroes and villains.

A four star novel. ( )
  Liz1564 | Sep 27, 2017 |
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Book description
In the tradition of All The Light We Cannot See and The Nightingale, comes an incandescent debut novel about a young Dutch man who comes of age during the perilousness of World War II.

Beginning in the summer of 1939, fourteen-year-old Jacob Koopman and his older brother, Edwin, enjoy lives of prosperity and quiet contentment. Many of the residents in their small Dutch town have some connection to the Koopman lightbulb factory, and the locals hold the family in high esteem.

On days when they aren’t playing with friends, Jacob and Edwin help their Uncle Martin on his fishing boat in the North Sea, where German ships have become a common sight. But conflict still seems unthinkable, even as the boys’ father naively sends his sons to a Hitler Youth Camp in an effort to secure German business for the factory.

When war breaks out, Jacob’s world is thrown into chaos. The Boat Runner follows Jacob over the course of four years, through the forests of France, the stormy beaches of England, and deep within the secret missions of the German Navy, where he is confronted with the moral dilemma that will change his life—and his life’s mission—forever.

Epic in scope and featuring a thrilling narrative with precise, elegant language, The Boat Runner tells the little-known story of the young Dutch boys who were thrown into the Nazi campaign, as well as the brave boatmen who risked everything to give Jewish refugees safe passage to land abroad. Through one boy’s harrowing tale of personal redemption, here is a novel about the power of people’s stories and voices to shine light through our darkest days, until only love prevails. Amazon
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