The Woman with the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff is inspired by the true story of a small group of Jewish people who escaped the Nazis and survived WWII in the sewers of Lviv, Poland. Now, as time goes by, it’s harder to tell these stories and base them on real-life people as the people who lived through them are gone. Theirs stories still need to be told, and authors are a little more creative in the way they tell them. Pam Jenoff has done that and taken inspiration from the nonfiction book In the Sewers of Lvov by Robert Marshall. It’s on our list to read.
The Woman With The Blue Star is set in the Kraków Ghetto and tells the fictional story of an unlikely friendship and bond between two different girls Sadie and Ella, who become friends through a grate above the sewer. Their friendship, bond, and sacrifices are the heart of the story, and while I liked seeing their bravery and kindness, I struggled to buy into the instant bond between them.
The story starts with an intense claustrophobia feel from the descriptions and conditions in the sewer. It loses some tension to the story when the tone turns more towards a lighter, hopeful tone that centers more around the love between the characters. While this brings a more heartfelt tone to the story, it took away from the danger and fear I imagined they must have experienced. I struggled a bit, buying into their motivations and actions. However, this did not affect the way I felt about the story. I enjoyed the lighter, more hopeful tone of the story.
The ending takes a turn to the story I did not expect, and I enjoyed the way the story wrapped up. I highly recommend it for readers who like some dark with more of a love story to it over the dark realities of WWII.
This book revolves around a very unlikely friendship. Ella and Sadie are from two different worlds. Ella is a Polish girl living with her selfish and uncaring stepmother who entertains Nazi officers occupying their town. Sadie is a Jewish girl hiding underground in the sewers with her pregnant mother and another Jewish family. Their chance meeting at the sewer grate begins a friendship that gets them through devastating and tragic times.
This was a mixed book for me. I enjoyed and appreciated learning about this time in our history. It always fascinates me when an author can provide a fresh perspective in such an over-saturated genre. I knew nothing of Jews hiding in sewer systems and found that shocking, eye-opening and informative. The first half of the book was stronger for me because it was highly atmospheric in its claustrophobic setting and it focused more on the sewer systems and what the families had to do to survive.
The second half of the book focused more on the friendships and romance of the characters which didn’t work as well for me. At times the storyline felt cliche, predictable and slightly cheesy. Some of the dialogue and characters behaviour was too “cute” for such a harrowing plot. The main characters were charming and endearing but didn’t suit the situation and pull the plot forward for me. The storyline was informative and hopeful but it lacked the sense of feeling “real” which prevented me from forming a true connection or investment in the characters and their situations. I enjoyed reading the story from an educational perspective, but it failed to pull at my emotions since the characters didn’t seem realistic and I didn’t feel the true heaviness of the devastating situation they were living in.
Overall, I’m glad I read it because I learned important parts of our history, but it wasn’t as enjoyable as I had hoped. I can certainly understand how this will appeal to many readers who enjoy lighter, less gritty wartime novels with charming characters and romance.
We received copies from the publisher on EW.
Book sleeves handmade by my Mom can be found here in Norma’s Etsy shop. Use SISTERS20 at the checkout for 20% off.