In 1942, Sadie Gault is eighteen and living with her parents amid the horrors of 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 sewers 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. Scorned by her friends and longing for her fiancé, who has gone off to war, Ella wanders Kraków restlessly. While on an errand in the market, she catches a glimpse of something moving beneath a grate in the street. Upon closer inspection, she realises 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 harrowing true stories, The Woman with the Blue Star is an emotional testament to the power of friendship and the extraordinary strength of the human will to survive.
Prior to becoming a writer, New York Times bestselling author Pam Jenoff worked at the Pentagon and as a diplomat for the US State Department handling Holocaust issues in Poland. This experience was invaluable for her writing, helping her to craft a number of meticulously researched and richly imagined novels set during the war, such as The Orphan’s Tale and The Kommandant’s Girl. Now she’s back with The Woman with the Blue Star, a gripping tale of burgeoning friendship and unfathomable hardship, and I have to admit, this might just be her best book yet.
While the two protagonists, Sadie and Ella, are fictitious, The Woman with the Blue Star is inspired by the true stories of those who hid in underground sewerage systems during WWII – and those who risked everything to help them. The two young women form a beautiful yet dangerous friendship that is poignantly brought to life here. The narrative alternates between both their voices, portraying the vastly different lives of those trapped within occupied Kraków.
This novel had me racing to get to the end, which was both unexpected and incredibly powerful. Jenoff has mastered the art of the plot twist – I gasped a few times when reading this, and that doesn’t happen often.
The Woman with the Blue Star is the perfect read for fans of WWII historical fiction, or anyone who enjoys moving tales of strong female friendship which are put to the ultimate test. Another incredible story from bestselling author Pam Jenoff.