Judas chronicles Astrid Holleeder’s story of her childhood and how her brother grew into the thing that she and her family feared the most.
Who is Judas?
Willem Holleeder is one of the most well known criminals of the Netherlands. Mostly known for the abduction of Freddy Heineken in 1983. This was well before I was born but since I have a big interest in true crime I was excited to read this book. And to discover the story behind this man and the family.
In close to 600 pages Judas tells the tale of Astrid’s terrifying childhood engaging 2012 to the present. 2012 to the present detailing the events surrounding the testifying. The book is a very honest account of Astrid’s life and her family. The effect her childhood had on her, her partners and the losses she has faced. Mostly focussed on her role as trust person for her brother. And how she came to the point to use that trust against him.
This story, Astrid’s life story, could easily be a story made up in fiction. But it’s not, this is her life and this knowledge send shivers up my spine more than once.
The book written by Astrid is very matter of fact. She goes through her childhood in the first 200 pages without switching scenes. After that she changes the pace to tell the story of why the decision to testify came about. We switch some timelines to puzzle together the pieces of Willem’s crimes but again, in a very matter of fact manner. We get some chapters in between of Astrid detailing some happier times with her big brother, which did have a emotional effect. But there were too little of them to hold up the almost 600 page book.
When I was reading this book I kept thinking about how much better this book could have been if there would’ve been a ghostwriter involved. Astrid is not a writer and just went about it to write the story down, without any flair or more facts than necessary. But this is a big book with a very big story to tell. And because most of this story is told in a very matter of fact manner, where we see whole conversations typed out and events are told without giving a lot of background, it’s almost like reading a textbook. And it’s hard to connect to a textbook.
I can imagine that living in an environment as Astrid, it becomes easier to talk about this stuff in a very textbook like manner, especially in a her job as a lawyer. But that doesn’t particularly work for a book of this size. It’s almost too simple and I found myself craving for more of the human side of Astrid, but she keeps that locked down. And combining this with the size of the book, it didn’t have the impact on me that I expected it to have. For me it lacked a personal touch; a way to reach out to the reader and really take them along for the ride. Something that other autobiographies, for example The Trauma Cleaner, did accomplish.
In the final chapter Astrid writes a letter to Wim, explaining why she had to do this and her accepting her early death that will surely result because of her testifying. And here I finally saw Astrid Holleeder, a sister to a brother who is a monster but is still family.
Title: Judas: een familiekroniek
Author: Astrid Holleeder
Publish date: November 4th, 2016
Page Number: 571
Language: Dutch (also Available in English translation)
ISBN 13: 9789048825028