The Little Coat

13 October 2010

The Little Coat
by Alan J. Buick
Published by DriverWorks Ink
Review by Joan Givner
$19.95 ISBN 978-0-9810394-3-5

Alan J. Buick deftly weaves together the true stories of two people against the background of World War II. The first is Everdina (nicknamed ‘Sussie’), a little Dutch girl whose family suffered and survived the horrors of the German occupation. The other is Bob Elliott from Alberta, who enlisted in the Canadian army at the age of fifteen by lying about his age.

Their stories intersect when his tank brigade arrived in Holland. Sussie became the brigade’s mascot and was rewarded one Christmas with an amazing gift. It was a set of new clothes to replace her ragged ones. These included the coat of the title, made by a local dressmaker and decorated with eight beautiful buttons, each one donated by a soldier from his uniform.

The coat was still Sussie’s most cherished possession when Bob made a return visit to the Netherlands decades later. The two, both now divorced, met, fell in love, and married. They spent the rest of their lives together, dividing their time between Canada and Holland. Sussie donated her coat to the Canadian Legion Hall in Olds, Alberta, and eventually it was placed in the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. Seeing it on display inspired Alan Buick to research and write his book.

Since Sussie was a child of ten and Bob a rapidly maturing soldier when they first met, the book sometimes strikes an uneasy balance between a children’s story and an adult romance. Yet, this can also be a virtue, as it widens the appeal to readers of all ages—children, teenagers and adults. Buick deserves high praise for recognizing the importance of the coat’s history. He researched it thoroughly, and presented it with many fine photographs—among them, the picture of the little coat on the book’s jacket.


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