Occupied by Kurt Blorstad

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MWSA Review

This is a well-told story of what occurred in "neutral Norway" during World War II, based on journals kept by a young man who helped the resistance. A family with an American father, Norwegian mother, and four children—two of whom were born in the US—was separated by the outbreak of the war. The father had returned to the States in 1936 to earn enough money to bring his family back to America, where they would be safer. The young family, left behind in Norway, moved back to the mother's parents’ home, where they had no electricity and no running water but plenty of chores for the seven-year-old and eight-year-old brothers with a good work ethic.

By early 1940, the Nazis had invaded Norway, changing the boy's lives. The Nazis built a prisoner of war camp near their home as well as an airfield, and they took food and whatever else they wanted from residents. Although the boys were young, they were able to help the resistance, a story they did not tell for many years.

The chronology of the book is clear, and the story moves along at a good pace. Sometimes there are only days between entries; other times, there are months. World War II buffs will find this an excellent contribution to the history of the era, and all readers should enjoy the story of this young family's experiences from 1935 to 1945.

Review by Nancy Kauffman (April 2019)

Author's Synopsis

KURT BLORSTAD and his father, TRYGVE, are in Norway celebrating the elder’s 70th birthday. As they visit landmarks from Trygve’s childhood, Trygve reveals that he has carried around a secret for years. Trygve begins his narration with the day he (age seven), his brothers THORALF (eight) and ODD (three), and his mother PAULINE go to live with his maternal grandmother in a small town outside of Vanse, Norway. Although Trygve was born in Brooklyn, New York, his family moved back to Norway to live with his father, OLAF’s, parents during the Great Depression. In 1935, Olaf returns to America to prepare things for Trygve and the rest of the family to join him. Soon after arriving at their grandmother’s house, Pauline informs the boys that she is pregnant and his sister, THELMA, is born. While living with his grandmother, Trygve helps with household chores, works on his uncle TARALD’s farm, and attends the school in town. On Trygve’s tenth birthday, he catches the eye of MR. ELLENES, the owner of a local shop—he soon begins working for Mr. Ellenes after school. One day while in the shop, Trygve’s teacher MR. DUNGVOLD comes in and tells them that the Nazi Party, led by Adolf Hitler, has invaded Poland. Mr. Dungvold fears that under Hitler’s leadership the Nazis will soon move into Norway. As life for Trygve continues in Norway, his father prepares for their arrival and finally in 1940 they have enough money to reunite in America. Just as plans were being made for the trip, the war comes to Trygve’s doorstep. Trygve describes life living under German occupation—new identification papers, curfews, limited resources, prisoners brought in to do manual labor, and most notably, the cancellation of their voyage. As all of this is going on, Trygve is asked to serve as a lookout during secret meetings local business owners have at Mr. Ellenes’ shop. Trygve takes another job at the local nursery and one day Tore, his co-worker, is captured by the Germans for spying. MR. JAKOBSEN, an attendee at the secret meetings, reveals that Tore used to work for him as a coast watcher and asks Trygve to take his place. Now 15, Trygve accepts without hesitation—having seen firsthand how cruel the Nazis were, he wants to do his part to get them out of his country. He uses the location of his grandmother’s house to view and report on German operations on the coast and airport. When the war ends in 1945 with Germany’s surrender, Trygve (age 16) and Thoralf (age 17) join their father in America by virtue of their American citizenship. It would be another two years before Pauline, Odd, and Thelma can join them. When they do, the reunion is joyful and a new chapter begins for the family. The story ends with Trygve reflecting on the danger he put his family in and Kurt realizing that the sacrifices of his family will stay with him forever.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-7326-3240-0, 978-1-7326-3241-7
Book Format(s): Soft cover, ePub/iBook
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 258