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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Key is Lost (The)
by Ida Vos
Age Range: 12+
Twelve-year-old Eva Zilverstijn and her nine-year-old sister Lisa go into hiding with their family, but no place is truly safe. Their first refuge is shared with another family but with so many people in the house it poses too great a risk, and it is Eva's family that must leave.
Their next ‘safe-house’ proves also temporary when the wife – who is having an affair – tells her lover of the hidden Jews. Hoping to have the husband arrested, the lover plans to inform the Germans. Eva's family manage to flee in time but soon she and Lisa must separate from their parents. Before they are parted from one another, their mother gives them each identical poems, about her hopes and dreams for them and for what they will do after liberation.
At first the girls stay with Eduard and Martha, and the obnoxious Trijntje, Martha’s niece, but things become dangerous when the police crackdown on a group of anti-Hitlerite Germans who have been secretly meeting in the house at night. They then go to stay with Big Mie and Skinny Rinus, but it is not long before they have to leave there too. Henny, a nurse in the Resistance, smuggles them to their final hiding place in an ambulance, and for the rest of the war they remain with the kindly puppeteer Amici Enfante, an old friend of their parents.
During their time in hiding the girls take imaginary ‘walks’ because they cannot go outside, play with the lice they find in their hair, and put on a puppet show. Ida Vos successfully demonstrate the protective powers of the fantasies the girls slip into as they re-create their own private world. Permeating the story is their fear of getting caught, concern for their parents, and their growing reluctance to form attachments to those who have risked their lives to take care of them. At the end of the book Vos tells the reader in the author’s note, that the poems referred to in the story, were the actual poems that Vos and her sister were given by their own mother.