Minda’s sober review of The Woman with the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff. Thank you to NetGalley and Park Row for the opportunity to read early and participate in the blog tour!
What I Drank Prior: With the subject matter it just didn’t seem right to review this drunk, so this girl just had some water. TW: Anti-Semitism, suicide, death, homophobia
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris comes a riveting tale of courage and unlikely friendship during World War II.
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 Star is an unforgettable testament to the power of friendship and the extraordinary strength of the human will to survive.
My Summary: Placed in Kraków, Poland, in 1942 during WWII, the book follows Sadie, a young Jewish woman who is forced to flee with her family to the bowels of the city when the occupying Germans evacuate the Ghetto. Her story runs in contrast to Ella, a non-Jewish Pole in the good graces of the Nazis, thanks to her scheming stepmother. In a twist of fate, one day Ella looks down and sees something she didn’t expect: the face of a young woman down in the sewer. The two woman form a friendship changes the trajectory of both their lives.
Spoiler-free Thoughts: I was at the edge of my seat for this entire book. This book was incredibly heartbreaking. Crushing. But at the same time, heartening with their strong bond and friendship they create in dire circumstances. It’s hard to read books about the Holocaust, but also incredibly important and I couldn’t put this one down.
Characters: TBH besides the Nazis, I felt favorably toward [mostly] all the characters in the book. I really liked both Sadie and Ella. They are strong women in tough situations. In Sadie’s life, we have her inspiring father and mother trying to give their children the best possible life and making hard choices. Also, Saul, the Orthodox Jewish man around her age living with her in the tunnels underneath the city. In Ella’s, we have her wicked stepmother, who is terrible, and her not-quite-fiancé, Krys.
Plot: First thing that comes to mind is perfectly paced. The plot had me at the edge of my seat for the entirety of the book and so worried about our characters.
World-building: I think the edge-of-my-seat feeling also speaks to the world-building. The author definitely did their research on Kraków, the Nazi occupation, and the overall sentiment that was in the city at the time.
Writing style: Pretty straight forward. Switched between our two heroines each chapter, which I think helped keep the pace steady.
Drink Pairing: A cold glass of water is just fine.
Rating: 5/5 shots
About the Author:
Pam Jenoff is the author of several books of historical fiction, including the NYT bestseller The Orphan’s Tale. She holds a degree in international affairs from George Washington University and a degree in history from Cambridge, and she received her JD from UPenn. Her novels are inspired by her experiences working at the Pentagon and as a diplomat for the State Department handling Holocaust issues in Poland. She lives with her husband and 3 children near Philadelphia, where she teaches law.
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