The Cut Out Girl: Winner of the 2018 Costa Book Awards

The Cut Out Girl by Bart van Es is the extraordinary biography of Lien, a Jewish girl who was living in The Hague, Holland until the outbreak of WWII.


Little Lien wasn’t taken from her Jewish parents – she was given away in the hope that she might be saved. She was hidden and raised by a foster family in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation. She survived the war only to find that her real parents had not. Much later, she fell out with her foster family. Thus Bart van Es – the grandson of Lien’s foster parents – knew he needed to find out why.

His account of tracing Lien and telling her story is a searing exploration of two lives and two families. It is a story about love and misunderstanding and about the ways that our most painful experiences – so crucial in defining us – can also be redefined.


The Cut Out Girl is such a revealing book. We learn about how Lien survived as a child being hidden from the world and cut off from those that loved her. It is unimaginable to all of us who have never experienced war or such intense religious hatred.7

This book also covers the history of Holland and its occupation by the Germans. How ordinary folk existed and continued to go about their every day business. However as with all strife, it divides people and war causes deeper divisions that any other single event.

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Neighbours turn on each other in order to survive. Friends take risks for each other, that can be life threatening. This book shows humanity at its best and worst and it is fact not fiction. Bart’s family and Lien’s family were connected and it is because of this connection and subsequent disconnection that Bart decides to research Lien’s life during WWII and after.

The author tells us how at one stage, whilst researching the book, he fretted a little about the kind of book that it was turning in to. Bart remarks to Lien that there are so many books already out there about the war.

“Lien smiles and tells me that repetition is no bad thing. There are also so many songs about love.”

Bart van Es

‘Superb. This is a necessary book – painful, harrowing, tragic, but also uplifting’

The Times

I found this book a great work of history wrapped around a distressing and heart-rending story. It is harrowing but it is also educational. We learn how it was to live and survive in Holland as a Jewish child during WWII.