I had to wait a few days after I finished this one to write a review. My feelings were so mixed I wanted to give them time to straighten themselves out and see if they went more towards yay or towards nay. I’m still confused so I’m going to explain why right here. I’ve read so many WW2 related novels, most based on fact or at least somewhat true to what may have happened during that time, so I sometimes feel some writers just rehash overdone storylines or, worse, overlook historical events for the sake of a storyline rather than integrity. When it comes to those aspects Kelly Rimmer was pretty much on track in her novel: the storyline is quite original in terms of where and when it takes place, and she also seems to have stuck very close to historical accuracy. I grew up with my stepfather’s family who were forcibly removed from their homes in Poland in 1940 and sent to Siberian concentration camps before being released and sent off as refugees with no home, and no country to call their own anymore, so a lack of historical accuracy would have made me stop reading the book.
I also liked the narrative style, with the two separate voices: Alina’s voice recounting her life and the events she lived through in Poland after the German invasion, and Alice’s present day voice as she navigates through her own life and then an unexpected trip to Poland. Kelly Rimmer is also a great writer, and she creates a wonderful vision of the little town in Poland, life under occupation, and also Polish farm life.
So why are my feelings so mixed? It was all just too easy, and fell into place so well. Just so predictable and slightly unbelievable too. So much of the story is based on the romance between Alina and her boyfriend Tomasz, that it actually becomes repetitive and slightly boring. Alina is portrayed as a hero when to me she is spoiled and scared of everything. Alice is even worse, I wanted to shake her several times and tell her to get out of her own head for a moment, put down the glass of whatever alcohol she was imbibing and pull herself together. So, as you can probably gather I wasn’t a fan of the characters really... And someone should have addressed the way alcohol is used as a crutch in the novel, because Alice definitely has a problem and no one seems to have an issue with it (or maybe I’m just sensitive to it having been amidst addicts all my life, I don’t know).
So, all in all, there were many things about the story that irritated me, some things I liked, but I still stayed up reading it way past my bed time, because I did want to see what happened in the end, even though I kind of predicted it. I think this novel will appeal to a lot of people, I just needed something a little meatier, a little less romance, and a little more depth for myself.
If you like romance, WW2 stories, and don’t mind a bit of predictability, you will probably enjoy this novel.
(Side note, as I had to mention this pet peeve of mine that really bothered me in the novel: it’s “dzień dobry” not “jen dobry”. I know that is not a big issue on the grand scale of things, but for accuracy’s sake the correct spelling of the Polish word should really be used.)
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy!