Title: The Woman With The Blue Star
Author: Pam Jenoff
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: May 4th, 2021 (Park Row Books)
Synopsis: 1942. Sadie Gault is eighteen and living with her parents in the Kraków Ghetto during World War II. When the Nazis liquidate the ghetto, Sadie and her pregnant mother are forced to seek refuge in the perilous tunnels beneath the city. One day Sadie looks up through a grate and sees a girl about her own age buying flowers.
Ella Stepanek is an affluent Polish girl living a life of relative ease with her stepmother, who has developed close alliances with the occupying Germans. While on an errand in the market, she catches a glimpse of something moving beneath a grate in the street. Upon closer inspection, she realizes it’s a girl hiding.
Ella begins to aid Sadie and the two become close, but as the dangers of the war worsen, their lives are set on a collision course that will test them in the face of overwhelming odds. Inspired by incredible true stories, The Woman with the Blue Staris an unforgettable testament to the power of friendship and the extraordinary strength of the human will to survive.
Thank you to HCCFrenzy and HarperCollins Canada for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Sadie Gault and her family are forced to flee the Krakow Ghetto when the Nazis arrive to liquidate it and they seek refuge in the sewers. Ella Stepanek, a Polish girl leads a comfortable life as her stepmother has made sure to ally with the Germans. When passing through the market on an errand, Ella notices something moving under one of the grates and is startled to find that someone is actually living in the tunnels beneath the city. An unlikely and immediate friendship forms between the two as Ella becomes determined to help Sadie. But Nazi occupied Krakow is a city that is becoming increasingly dangerous for both of them.
WWII historical fiction has become quite a regular on my TBR over the last year and I hesitated to pick up this book initially, wondering if it would have anything new to add. While this did remind me a little of The Light in Hidden Places, The Woman With The Blue Star is definitely a story that stands out. This was a fast paced and gripping read. The author easily draws the reader into the world of Nazi occupied Poland right from page one, showing us Sadie’s flight from the ghetto, and how, having nowhere else to go, descend into the sewers of the city in desperation. The conditions in which Sadie and the rest are forced to live in is truly heart breaking and it’s horrifying to think that this was inspired by real life stories. This book brings to life the story of the beautiful friendship between these two girls, the awful situations the hunted Jews found themselves in yet mustered up the strength to get through it all and how the Polish people were courageous enough to go against the Nazis silently and help in whatever small ways they could.
The main characters, Ella and Sadie were fantastic and seeing this era through their eyes, and understanding their thoughts and struggles, though leagues apart, had me really invested in their stories and fates. The secondary characters like Krys and Ella’s stepmother were not as well described, and I would have liked to know more about them, particularly the Rosenbergs, who live alongside Sadie and her mother. With the swift pace this book keeps up though, there isn’t all that much time to think about it.
The ending felt a bit forced to me and the explanation of what happened to each of the characters was so quickly explained that it felt like there was a rush to finish the book. It would have been nice if the author had taken more time with the ending and built up the tension slowly. However, this was an amazing read and I would highly recommend it for fans of WWII historical fiction.
The Woman With The Blue Star releases on May 4th, 2021.
Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!