Monday, March 8, 2021

BOOK REVIEW: Band of Sisters: A Novel by Lauren Willig

 I received this book for free from Netgalley. That did not influence this review.

Band of Sisters: A Novel
by Lauren Willig (subtitled The Women of Smith College Go to War) is a spellbinding World War I novel that focuses on the relief efforts of a small group of young women, graduates of Smith College, who travel to France to provide direct aid to villagers who have been devastated by the Germans. Women, children, and elderly men are living in cellars or bombed-out villages, trying to eke out an existence close to the front lines. Most have lost family members. Schools are gone. Livelihoods are gone. They are forgotten people in the midst of the ongoing fighting.

These women come in, set up schools, build simple houses, feed people, and provide them with the means to begin to rebuild their lives. They bring hope to the hopeless. There are a couple of doctors, an agriculturist, and a few teachers but, for the most part, they learn on the job what they need to know to get things done.

They settle in Grecourt, a bombed-out village in close proximity to the front. They live in constant low-level danger until the Germans overrun the lines and things become suddenly very dangerous. The women from Smith College then help to evacuate the villagers one step ahead of the advancing enemy.

Although the characters are fictional, they are inspired by real-life people and the episodes depicted have their basis in real historical events.

The beauty in this novel is how the women come together as a cohesive unit despite personality conflicts, differing backgrounds, and differing goals. It’s common in war stories to see men bonding under duress, but camaraderie like this among women is less often showcased. These women are hard-working, brave, and devoted to their cause, but also flawed, at times insecure, and very human. The novel passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. Although a romance does develop, it doesn’t dominate the plot. 

Although fairly long at 524 pages, this is a quick-paced, engrossing read. Despite the horrors of war, which are not sugar-coated, it’s an uplifting tale.  Highly recommended. 

1 comment:

  1. I Loved this book! Really interesting and yes, although long, it was very fast paced!