A somewhat unfocused entry in the ""Portraits of the Nations"" series, this time covering the Netherlands--its people, land, and daily life; history; the economy, government, social system, and leisure activities; problems clouding the future. Van Stegeren, a journalist who lives in Amsterdam, emphasizes the paradoxical nature of the Dutch national character and its evolution and writes frankly about social issues: prostitution, drug use, crime, the black market, abortion, euthanasia, racism. Although he explains the Dutch position without making value judgments, the differences between Dutch attitudes and methods of handling these matters and those prevailing in the US are evident. Overall, his portrayal of people and life is somber: ""a climate of prosperity with little instinct for enjoying it."" Van Stegeren's vocabulary is also often difficult, while his emphases can be curious--among other things, in discussing literature he mentions no YA or children's authors. A dense, complex book of dubious accessibility for young people. Bibliography; maps, b&w photos, charts, and index not seen.