Friday, February 4, 2022

Book Review: The Helsingør Sewing Club

By Sara Steven

Inspired by the incredible true story of how the people of Denmark saved their Jewish neighbours during WW2

Helsingør, Denmark, 1943

In the midst of the German occupation during World War Two, Inger Bredahl joins the underground resistance and risks her life to save members of Denmark’s Jewish community and help them escape to Sweden.

Copenhagen, 2018

Inger’s granddaughter, Cecilie Lund, is mourning her death when a mysterious discovery while cleaning out Inger’s flat leads past and present to intersect. As long-held secrets finally see the light of day, Cecilie learns the story of her grandmother’s courage and bravery, and of the power of friendship, love, and standing for what’s right…even when you have everything to lose.

An inspiring tale of the resilience of the human spirit and the power of community. (Synopsis courtesy of Rachel's Random Resources.)

There’s nothing better than a discovery read, and that’s what The Helsingør Sewing Club brought to the reading table, and more. Initially, the story is told from Cecilie’s perspective, with a viewpoint from 2018. The reader discovers that Cecilie’s grandmother Inger has just passed away, and Cecilie has been tasked with going through her things and tying up loose ends. While tending to her tasks, she discovers an unusual link between her grandmother and a man named David Nathan. From there, the background to Inger’s story and how the two characters are connected begins to unravel and become the focal point, particularly when we’re given Inger’s perspective from 1943.

Going back and forth between both characters and timeframes was incredibly helpful. Where Cecilie leaves off, Inger fills that void and vice versa. While so many of us have prior knowledge of the Holocaust due to history books, studies in school, and possibly personal stories given to us by someone we know, this felt like a true inner lens into what life would have been like for someone who had to live through that time. I was unaware of the way the Danish had stepped in to attempt to save so many lives, and reading about Inger’s bravery, not to mention the other brave characters who at times also lend us their voices, was inspiring and all too much a reminder of such a tumultuous and painful time in our history. 

Every second of the action-packed scenes left me riveted. When I assumed well-made plans would go wrong, it wouldn’t, and when I figured things would go alright, it didn’t. I didn’t know who to trust, much like how Inger felt, and how I imagine many felt who actually lived through the experience. There were heartbreaking moments that made me think, “Did that just happen?!?” Ella Gyland didn’t minimize the authenticity of our world circa 1943, and it really showed. 

Woven nicely within the dark are times of hope, and love, and inspiration, which buoyed the characters. It’s what keeps them going, whether during Inger’s time, or Cecilie’s. The discovery of who David Nathan is, of how the Danish could accomplish all they could for humanity, was inspiring and very much worth the read; it’s a five-star experience!

Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase Links:
Amazon UK * Amazon US (Different title)

Author bio, in her own words:
Originally from Denmark, I have lived in London for many years, surrounded by my family, cats, books and the Scandinavian hygge I try to create everywhere I go. As a linguist I love playing with words and language, and I am addicted to story-telling. I also believe strongly in social responsibility and sustainable living.

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