The Woman with the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff
How far would you go to save your life? To save the life of a girl staring up at you, out of a sewer grate? The Woman with the Blue Star is a heartfelt tale of triumph and determination, and a moving witness of the incredible bonds of friendship.
About the book:
(From the publisher) 1942. Eighteen-year-old Sadie Gault lives with her parents amid the horrors of the Kraków Ghetto. When the Nazis liquidate the ghetto, Sadie and her pregnant mother seek refuge in the sewers below 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. Scorned by her friends and longing for her fiancé, who has gone off to war, Ella wanders Kraków restlessly. 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 harrowing true stories, The Woman with the Blue Star is an emotional testament to the power of friendship and the extraordinary strength of the human will to survive.
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Unlikely friendship is one of my favourite themes in novels — and this one was beautiful. The story follows the point-of-view of two different characters: Sadie and Ella. Their blossoming friendship is heartwarming and full of bravery and sacrifice.
The setting for this story was also quite unique. The fact that Jews hid in sewers was a new historical fact for me. (And I love when the author’s notes at the back indicate where to go for further non-fiction research.)
While Ella and Sadie occasionally felt young for their stated ages, the separate points of view worked well for the novel. The characters were full of grit and determination. You could see their understanding of the world growing, and I adored this portrayal of sacrificial friendship amidst uncertainty.
The story was a quick and immersive read with a fast pace. It was only at the ending that things felt a little forced. There was a lot going on. Some of the events felt rushed to create an action-filled climax, rather than a natural progression to the story. (On the plus side, I suppose this means I was enjoying it so much I didn’t want it to end!) I do, however, love when stories share what happens to the characters after the events of the novel — and this story had that!
The Woman With the Blue Star is a well-written, riveting bit of historical fiction. For fans of the genre, I definitely recommend it.
The Woman with the Blue Star is available May 4, 2021!