book review, historical fiction, history

Review: The War Girls by V.S. Alexander

The War Girls by V. S. Alexander opens at the start of WWII and follows Stefa, a Polish Jew in Warsaw, Janka a Catholic in Warsaw, and Hanna, Stefa’s sister who fled her home before the war to live with her aunt in London.

There is quite an over saturation of WWII stories, so I went into this book thinking it would be your run of the mill WWII genre story, but I was pleasantly surprised by its depth of research and cinematic quality. V. S. Alexander’s attention to detail on Jewish customs, history, and religious ceremonies is evident, as Stefa’s family is still very much steeped in those traditions at the start of the war. It was those very same traditions that Hanna found restrictive, causing her to flee to London to live with her mother’s sister.

While Stefa’s family in Warsaw endures the start of the Nazi invasion, subsequent occupation, and later resettlement into the ghetto, Hanna lives through the London Blitz. Janka, a neighbor of Stefa’s family, finds little ways to rebel against her cruel husband and the new Nazi occupiers by helping the nearby Jewish family before and even after they are forced into the ghetto.

Hanna endures a loss (a component of which actually made me tear up!) which leads to her being recruited by the SOE to train as an agent to infiltrate Nazi-occupied Poland to transmit messages. She must reconcile her sense of duty with the feelings of guilt and love she has for her family in the ghetto.

As I mentioned before, the story is cinematic and immersive, although often rough with the depictions of the Warsaw ghetto. If you can handle graphic, realistic depictions, I would recommend The War Girls as an accurate representation of Poland and its resistance fighters in WWII.