Girl at War by Sara Novic
Review copy provided by publisher
Hachette, June 2015
Synopsis- Zagreb, summer of 1991. Ten-year-old Ana Juric is a carefree tomboy who runs the streets of Croatia’s capital with her best friend, Luka, takes care of her baby sister, Rahela, and idolizes her father. But as civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, soccer games and school lessons are supplanted by sniper fire and air raid drills. When tragedy suddenly strikes, Ana is lost to a world of guerilla warfare and child soldiers; a daring escape plan to America becomes her only chance for survival.
Ten years later Ana is a college student in New York. She’s been hiding her past from her boyfriend, her friends, and most especially herself. Haunted by the events that forever changed her family, she returns alone to Croatia, where she must rediscover the place that was once her home and search for the ghosts of those she’s lost. With generosity, intelligence, and sheer storytelling talent, Sara Nović’s first novel confronts the enduring impact of war, and the enduring bonds of country and friendship.
Review- A wonderfully confronting fictional debut novel that takes the reader into a young woman’s experience of the recent Bosnian-Croatian war.
Ten-year-old Ana Juric happily plays with her best mate Luka, but as a civil war looms her sense of safety and security is turned upside down. Air raids, invasions and racial killings are just the beginning. Her carefree childhood is transformed into fear and conflict. Her parents are stressed, her baby sister Rahela is ill and Ana is trying to make sense of all this change. Her parents manage to get Rahela across the border so she can seek medical assistance in the United States, but upon their return Ana is faced with a tragedy, and the memories will last a lifetime.
Orphaned and disoriented, Ana stumbles into a rebel group as her only chance of survival. With some help, she escapes the conflict and flees to America to be fostered by the family who cared for her sister. Though she is reunited, educated, provided stability; the memories of the war that she has so keenly suppressed finds its way to the surface. It’s at college that Ana has a realisation about the role her past has played in shaping who she is- her strengths but also her weaknesses. Terrified of facing the emotional pain she left behind, she learns it may be the only way to move forward and heal her fragmented sense of identity.
Told in Ana’s viewpoint, the narrative alternates between Ana’s childhood experience of the war and the adult Ana (in her 20’s) who faces her past on a trip back to Croatia. Girl at War is a confronting novel drawing on the realities of war, the individual experience and the transfomative power of friendship, culture and sense of identity. I’d highly recommend this novel.
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