'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Saturday 27 February 2021

Review: From Stella Street to Amsterdam and Everything that Happened

Built with carefully chosen images, exquisite prose and humour, this delight-to-read book, celebrates the 25th Anniversary of Elizabeth Honey’s first novel, 45 and 47 Stella Street and Everything that Happened.

New adventures await Henni as she prepares to accompany her ageing neighbour Willa back home to Amsterdam, for a family wedding.

Willa hasn’t been there since she left as a young woman and it seems she’s not ready yet to share any family information with the patient but curious Henni during the first leg of their flight.

Amidst air pockets, turbulence and an experience that they will never forget, the two companions reach Dubai. It is on the flight to Schiphol, that Willa’s mind wanders back to the war years and her childhood. This remembering is a miracle, as she has been forgetting things for ages. Henni is thrilled as all the stories Willa tells are fodder for her writer’s journal.

 It is a city of bikes and canals. They arrive to introductions and people’s names Henni can’t retain. At Willa’s sister Hyacint’s house, Henni is allocated the attic which brings unexpected challenges.

The return isn’t a comfortable one for either Henni or Willa. There are undercurrents of unrest in this family filled with secrets and mysteries, many kept hidden a lifetime. Resentment and tension build between Willa and her sister as they stir their memory pots and digging deep, can’t find any comfort in what the ladle brings up.

As Henni learns about this magical city and discovers it on a bike, she is lucky to visit places and meet people that fill in some of the blanks that Willa refuses to talk about temporarily.

From the map of the area imprinted in her brain, Willa shows Henni her Amsterdam. Historical information is inserted into Willa’s personal narrative as pages of buried life are exposed. This is what Henni has been waiting for. This is the place Willa has waited to be, so that her life could be viewed through the correct focus.

Henni recognises the depth of her friendship and closeness to Willa. She understands that in every family unrest exists, but love is always there in the background. This does not prepare her for the unexpected.

Title: From Stella Street to Amsterdam  and Everything that Happened
Author/Illustrator: Elizabeth Honey
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, $16.99
Publication Date: 1 September 2020
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781865084541
For ages: 10 – 14
Type: Junior Fiction