The War Girls
Books are the one gift that can transport you into another world with the mere flick of a page. The War Girls by V.S. Alexander is a historical fiction novel that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat as you go back to the 1940s, entering one of the darkest times during World War II.
V.S. Alexander is renowned for historical women's fiction and his ability to capture the female protagonists' raw emotions and strength as they overcome the immense obstacles and challenges that lay on their path. He describes their journeys as fraught with danger and intrigue as they learn about life, love, and most importantly themselves.
Unlike other World War II fiction, The War Girls will have you feeling part of history as opposed to just reading words on a page. You cannot help but feel and share in the pain and fear of each character as VS Alexander brings the suffering of those amid the Blitz in London and the trauma of surviving the Warsaw Ghetto to life.
The story is cleverly woven with history, personal struggles and triumphs, and their unwavering dedication to the Jewish faith. You will be left with vivid images of lighting the candles at sunset for Rosh Hashanah, memories of reciting the blessings, the Shehecheyanu benediction, performing Kaporos, days of prayer and fasting, and feelings of touching the mezuzah. Yet, despite the restrictions and lack of freedom, their faith, steeped in tradition, is what binds them together.
The War Girls follows the story of two Jewish sisters, Hanna Majewski and her younger sister Stefa as they stand up against the Nazis and fight for freedom. Their love for each other and their family is central to their lives, and their journey shows that despite the inevitable sadness and loss of war, love can overcome the hatred that forms its foundation.
Set in 1940, the sisters are separated by thousands of miles as Hanna begins her new life in London while Stefa remains in Poland with her younger brother and parents. Hanna experiences the heartless aerial bombing campaign by the Germans firsthand as the Luftwaffe mercilessly drops bombs on London for months on end. Tragedy strikes and Hanna's aunt and uncle with whom she has been living are killed during an incessant night of bombing. Hanna narrowly escapes death and finds herself in a hospital where her life is set to take a new direction.
Hanna finds herself being approached and recruited as a spy because of her intimate knowledge of Warsaw and her linguistic talents. After undergoing intense training, Hanna finds herself back in war-torn Poland on a mission to discover details of the German's plans and to secretly radio the information back to London. Although she has been instructed not to try and rescue her family, she knows it is one thing that she will endeavor to do.
Back in Warsaw, the Majewski family is initially under the false impression that they will be safe despite their religious beliefs. Stefa, her younger brother, and her parents are removed from the home along with many other Jewish families and are forced to live in what became known as the Warsaw Ghetto, a small walled-off area. The new life is in stark contrast to the wealthy neighborhood where they once lived. Half a million Jews are confronted with Nazi cruelty, dire living conditions, starvation, and disease, all while the threat of deportation to the concentration camps looms darkly overhead.
Stefa becomes part of the ghetto's resistance and does all she can to fight for freedom and thwart the Nazi's plans. Eventually joined by Hannah, Stefa and her friend Janka from the Aryan part of Warsaw refer to themselves as the War Girls and fight against overwhelming odds to rescue their friends and family from their harsh existence. The trio symbolizes the courage, strength, and determination of all who stood and fought for freedom.
This is a story that will have you riveted from the onset as you find yourself inextricably caught up in the vivid imagery and raw emotions so clearly depicted throughout the book. It is one of those stories that will have you rooting for the underdog, weeping into tissues, and filled with admiration for the fortitude of all who survived the Second World War.
At Once Upon a Book Club, we are proud to offer you the only printed hardcover edition of this touching story. Our beautiful and exclusively designed dust jacket and its cloth-bound hardcover with foiling on the hard case, custom end papers, and stenciled edges is a tribute to the challenges of the Warsaw Girls. As we celebrate the festive season and come together, The Warsaw Girls reminds us of the importance of love and family and is a story that will be treasured for years to come.