Friday, March 22, 2013

The Occupied Garden by Kristen deHartog and Tracy Kasaboski

The next book club has been rescheduled to Thursday, April 18
(note the date change...) with the meeting to begin at 7:30 and discussion at 8:00 at Trish's place.  I look forward to meeting to discuss “The Occupied Garden”.  Happy reading! - Trish

 Discussion Questions: 
  1.  Did you enjoy the book?  Why or why not?
  2. The Occupied Garden is a personal story, but layered with historical detail. Did the authors find the right balance between these two elements? What did you think of the way the authors blended history with family lore?
  3. Why is the story of the Dutch royal family so consistently woven throughout the book, and how is it important to contrast and compare these two families’ experiences of the war? Did you sympathize with Queen Wilhelmina when she fled the country, or did you feel she’d let her people down? What did you make of Prince Bernhard and the other royals?
  4. What do you think of the title, and the role of gardens in the story?   The Dutch publishers of this book chose to call it De kinderen van de tuinder, or The Children of the Gardener.  Why do you suppose they did this, and given the various characters and points of view, could you say whose story this is? Is it a love story?
  5. Were you drawn to a particular character in this book? Who and why and how did that influence the way you saw the other characters in the book?
  6. The authors insert themselves into the prologue and epilogue, letting the readers in on who they are and what this story means to them. Why do you suppose they kept themselves out of the main body of the story and chose a straightforward, chronological approach rather than one that followed their own journey of recovering the events of their family?
  7. The church and the daring Reverend Rietveld play an important role in the story, and in the lives of Cor and Gerrit. How did you feel about the way the church was portrayed, and were you surprised when all five of the children left the church once they’d grown up?
  8. What does it say about Cor and Gerrit that they rarely spoke about their wartime experiences, and yet saved their identity cards, Gerrit’s army documentation, and the Swiss postcard signed “José”? What among your own belongings might be clues to your life for future generations?
  9. The “Sunday” chapter has been called the centrepiece of the book, and is reconstructed with fragments from various points of view. Is this an effective way of recounting the events of this particular day, and why do you suppose the authors chose this method? What do you think of Niek’s “memory” that he was playing a game with Rokus, when the family version has him napping in his crib?
  10. Photographs open each chapter of the book, and are also often described within its pages — Henny’s family snapshots, the pictures Cor keeps tucked in her drawer, and so on. How do these visual components act as windows into Cor and Gerrit’s world? Did the photographs impact your reading of the story, and your connection to the characters? What role do photographs play in mining your own family history?
  11. Who owns family history, if anyone? Would it be acceptable to you if, after your death, someone wrote a book about your life? Are there certain parameters that would make it acceptable?

Menu: "Let's Go Dutch"

Since a few of us have a Dutch heritage it will be fun to bring a favorite Dutch dish, an old family recipe perhaps passed down through the generations.  Or perhaps if you don’t have an Oma or a Tante to ask, you could check on the world wide web for something that seems tasty.  Share in the  comments what you plan to bring so we can avoid too much of one thing.

Check out: The Dutch Table   or Dutch Foods for lots of options.


-  Croquettes: Karen
- Uienbrood - Melissa

Main Dish:

- Witlofschotel  - Tessa

- Fresian Thumbprint cookies - Tessa

- Arretje's Cake - Stephanie

Drinks - Trish 


  1. I will be there:) I will bring Kass - Uienbrood. It is an appetizer, if you don't know what it is you will have to wait and see. Maybe I will also bring Bierpap just a little nervous will all be sleepy by 9!!

  2. I will be bringing Arretje's Cake (dessert). New recipe for me! I'm excited to learn more about Dutch culinary traditions :)

  3. I will be there for the first 1/2 of the meeting and bring boeterkoek. Sorry that is the only dutch thing I know how to make :) See you all then!

  4. So sorry...I just realized that Arretje's cake requires 24 hours of refrigeration before serving and I haven't made it yet. So I'll be bringing Chocoladevla instead. At least it's still a chocolate flavoured dessert!


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