Title: The Warsaw Sisters
Author: Amanda Barratt
Major Themes: Family, World War II, Holocaust, Polish Resistance
Synopsis: As two Polish sisters try to find their way in war-ravaged Warsaw, they get involved with resistance efforts and do their best to help protect the Jewish population in the city and fight back against the German occupation.
I was intrigued, when I saw that The Warsaw Sisters was coming out, to see what it would contain. I feel like Poland is one of those countries you rarely hear any stories from—everyone knows it’s there, but it feels like other European countries get the spotlight more often. I do remember reading The Silver Sword, which begins in Warsaw, and the family in The Endless Steppe were Polish—but other than those two books, I’m not sure I’ve read anything else set in Poland. Anyway, I was excited to read this book, and eagerly dove into it soon after I got it. And wow…it’s hard to put into words what I think of this story! Brilliant, heart-wrenching, well-written, and unforgettable are a few adjectives I can think of off the top of my head.
With war looming on the horizon, Antonina and Helena Dąbrowska say goodbye to their father as he goes to defend their homeland against the advancing Germans. The twins have never been apart, and after losing their mother at a young age, their father has been the one they’ve always leaned on—now, all they have is each other. The next day, the city is bombed, reducing it to a shell of its former glory. As the Germans quickly defeat the Polish army and occupy the country, the women do their best to keep life and soul together, despite the shortages they face. Then, Antonina’s dear friend, Marek, a Jew, is forced into the ghetto the Germans cordoned off…and before long, Jews are being deported. Fearing for his life, but unable to do anything to help him, Antonina throws herself into work she can do—sheltering Jewish children who are smuggled out of the ghetto. Meanwhile, Helena joins Poland’s secret army, working as a courier to carry vital information around the city. With their secrets and the war driving a deeper and deeper wedge between the sisters, will they be able to still love and protect each other as more and more is demanded of them? Will they be called to sacrifice everything for their homeland?
The Warsaw Sisters is one of the most gut-wrenching books I’ve read in a long time. Although I’m sure this doesn’t portray the worst of war’s atrocities, it also doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities that far too many men and women faced during World War II. The brutalities described in here were almost too difficult to read at times, and it took me a while to get through the book because it was such heavy going.
At the same time, this book is a masterpiece! The amount of research that went into it, combined with a solid storyline, relatable characters, and an easy-to-read writing style, makes this an unforgettable story. Several times as I was reading the story, I talked to Mom about this or that happening, and even though I had to acknowledge how awful many of the pieces of the story were, I also marveled at how well-written the book was. I think that’s what made this book memorable and worth reading; without careful handling, this book would have been not only a drag but could easily have been downright terrible. But it wasn’t—and I’m grateful for that!
This book isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you appreciate realistic fiction with a good dose of history and a gripping story, this could be a great book for you. This isn’t the kind of book I like to read just any day, but I appreciate works of this caliber occasionally. It’s inspiring to read about men and women who laid their lives on the line for their country, and incredible to read about the sacrifices many, many people made as they tried to protect others. Stories like this aren’t easy reads, but they are worthwhile, and I’m glad I got a chance to read The Warsaw Sisters. I doubt I’ll ever look at Poland—and especially Polish history—in the same way again, and in my opinion, that’s a good thing.
I was given a complimentary copy of this book, and this is my honest opinion of it.
I rarely read a book that I would describe as “heavy” in the same way that The Warsaw Sisters felt while I was reading it. This book described one tragedy after another after another all the way through. It’s been a long time since I read a book set in Warsaw, Poland during World War II, and I had forgotten, if I ever knew, just how horrible the war was in that city.
Amanda Barratt doesn’t mince words. She shows the horrors of war in enough detail to make you feel like you are there. The Warsaw Sisters is not a book to read just before bed! I appreciated the glimpses of hope that shone through here and there, though. One scene that stands out shows a man and woman and baby who crawled from underneath a pile of bodies, and the man helped the woman and baby escape at the cost of his own life. Other little things shone as examples of love and decency, as well. I liked the ending. It was a lovely, happy ending—but not the unrealistic ending that you sort of hope for all the way through. I recommend this book for those who like to read World War II fiction.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Baker Publishing, and these are my honest thoughts about it.
WARNING: This book is an unflinching look at the horror and brutalities that many people faced during World War II. There are numerous descriptions of bombings and people being badly injured, mistreated, killed, or starving to death. There is occasional lying, and “for goodness’ sake” or other phrases like that are used a few times. In ch. 3, people hack up a horse that died in its traces. In ch. 15, a character commits fornication—this is not on-page; you just know what is going to happen and then see their regret afterward. Unmarried couples occasionally kiss, but that is never described in-depth. In ch. 17, the ghetto burns while people laugh. From ch. 26–34, there are horrific descriptions of war and many people badly injured or dying (several scenes are quite graphic). Ch. 27 and 28 describe a massacre, which is also horrific. A character believes it is right to fight for their country, and kills several people.