Cruel Paradise deftly weaves together the firsthand stories of men and women who emigrated from the Netherlands throughout the twentieth century. A skilled stylist with an unassuming presence, Hylke Speerstra brings readers along as he circles the globe interviewing transplanted Netherlanders in the United States, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia. Combining elements of memoir and travelogue, his narrative speaks to universal human experience as it vividly recounts the trials and successes of these emigrants.
Common themes of personal identity and family, uprootedness and loss, nostalgia and bittersweet joy run throughout the book. Yet these emigrants have had very diverse life experiences. Some have become affluent beyond imagining, brushing elbows with Rockefellers, Kennedys, and movie producers; others have spent the better part of a lifetime eking out their living as farmers. Often poignant, sometimes amusing, always memorable, these stories provide a moving tribute to those who left their homeland behind with little more than uncertain hopes for their children.
Cruel Paradise will interest all readers of memoirs or travel literature, especially those with Dutch connections or with emigrant tales of their own.