Jasmijn Derckx

On the life of Theodoor Samuel van Ravenswaaij, physician in the United States, Dutch East Indies and The Hague 1888-1961.

The story

Based on one of the largest collections of letters from The Hague, Jasmijn Derckx reconstructed the history of the Van Ravenswaaij family.

The focus is on Theodoor, third-generation descendant of this international family. The eventful life of physician Theodoor van Ravenswaaij and his family takes place in the period from 1888 to 1961 in the Netherlands, France, Germany, the United States and in Java and Sumatra. Happy moments alternate with tragic events such as war, loss, persecution, famine and displacement.

By writing more than four thousand letters, the family remained closely connected. In Theodore, their lifelines meet again.


Speciaal voor leesclubs: 

  • Speciaal programma voor de boekbespreking, opgesteld door Jasmijn Derckx zelf
  • Exclusieve korting (10% bij 10 boeken, 20% bij 20 boeken)
  • Jasmijn komt persoonlijk op jullie boekenclub voorlezen en samen het boek te bespreken

Neem voor meer informatie contact op via de contactpagina of mail direct naar:

Tjeerd Vrij

Director of the Hague Historical Museum and Rijksmuseum De Gevangenpoort

The story about the doctor Theo, son Boem and his Family moved me deeply. Very clever how the author manages to connect (selections of) the letter fragments and put them in the context of their time. The (privileged) life in the East Indies, WWI, life in The Hague during WWII (including the bombing of Bezuidenhout), the difficult reconstruction, everything passes by. While reading, the protagonist Theo also really gets you as a reader, with the peaks and especially the valleys full of sadness he encounters in his life. What a great read. The book really comes highly recommended!

The Hague Municipal Archives

'Unique because of its magnitude, but above all because of the particular era in which the collection was created'

Wieteke van Dort

This beautifully crafted book is based on the unique correspondence of the Van Ravenswaay family. It is touching how all family members maintained contact with each other. A unique correspondence of the family. Jasmijn Derckx has skilfully and respectfully rendered the enormous source of information (4000 letters!). It is an extraordinary standard work!


What an incredibly beautiful and moving story you have written. I read it in one go today. And that's saying something, because that rarely happens to me. Many thanks...

Mark van Koppen

I enjoyed reading it. A beautiful portrait of an eventful, sometimes tragic life. Like any good book, it provokes thought and provides answers and questions. Very successful!

In the footsteps of Theodoor

Jasmijn Derckx: "After reading the letters, I decided to travel in the footsteps of Theo van Ravenswaaij who lived in Sumatra, among other places. I had never been to Indonesia before, and I was keen to get a better sense of what his life must have been like as a doctor in the hospital in Tebing Tinggi, near Medan. In January 2020, I stood in the garden in front of his house with a folder full of letters from Theo van Ravenswaaij in my hand. This house he had had built in 1921 in Tebing Tinggi in Sumatra opposite the hospital. The hospital was still there. I went to Samosir to meet the Batak people. I visited Medan and discovered Hotel De Boer and the old post office. I walked along the Esplanade where Theo and his wife used to stroll and tried to imagine the splendour of earlier times in the dynamism of the Indonesian city with its scooters, food stalls and crowds."

"I travelled to Singapore where I slept at the Fullerton hotel which used to be the 'General Postoffice'. In that post office, the Van Ravenswaaij family's letters used to be sorted after arriving from long trips on steamships. There is another museum in the hotel on the history of the former post office. I travelled on to Bali where, after a day of searching with guides from the Agun Rai museum in Ubud, I discovered two paintings by Boem's uncle, Alexander van Ravenswaaij. And on the day I was at the airport in Bali to fly back, the message was announced there that Covid-19 had broken out, a day later all flights were cancelled. Just in time, I arrived home, grateful to have been able to make this trip before the lockdown was declared."

Jasmijn can tell much more about her journey in the footsteps of Theodoor van Ravenswaaij and the history of his family. Would you like to hear more? Book her as a speaker!