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My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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Friday, February 26, 2021

ARC Review: Band of Sisters by Lauren Willig



Please Note:  I won an advance copy of this book from the publisher from a Goodreads giveaway.  This did not influence the opinions in my review in any way.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A scholarship girl from Brooklyn, Kate Moran thought she found a place among Smith’s Mayflower descendants, only to have her illusions dashed the summer after graduation. When charismatic alumna Betsy Rutherford delivers a rousing speech at the Smith College Club in April of 1917, looking for volunteers to help French civilians decimated by the German war machine, Kate is too busy earning her living to even think of taking up the call. But when her former best friend Emmeline Van Alden reaches out and begs her to take the place of a girl who had to drop out, Kate reluctantly agrees to join the new Smith College Relief Unit.

Four months later, Kate and seventeen other Smithies, including two trailblazing female doctors, set sail for France. The volunteers are armed with money, supplies, and good intentions—all of which immediately go astray. The chateau that was to be their headquarters is a half-burnt ruin. The villagers they meet are in desperate straits: women and children huddling in damp cellars, their crops destroyed and their wells poisoned. 

Despite constant shelling from the Germans, French bureaucracy, and the threat of being ousted by the British army, the Smith volunteers bring welcome aid—and hope—to the region. But can they survive their own differences? As they cope with the hardships and terrors of the war, Kate and her colleagues find themselves navigating old rivalries and new betrayals which threaten the very existence of the Unit.

With the Germans threatening to break through the lines, can the Smith Unit pull together and be truly a band of sisters?

Review:

With so many historical fiction books dealing with war, I've read novels with many different premises.  Most of these books take place in WWII. But the new novel, Band of Sisters, by Lauren Willig is set in WWI, and is based on a group of real-life super women:  The Smith College Relief Unit.  This was a group of Smith College alumni who went from New England over to France to work with the women and children affected by the still raging war.  They had no idea what they were getting themselves into.  This book shares all the incredible feats of these women, with amazing details, and characters who you will love.  This is historical fiction at its best.

What I Liked:

Premise:

This was an incredible story.  Twelve women actually paid to do volunteer work in the French countryside in 1917.  This was mere miles from where the fighting was still actively taking place.  Most of these volunteers were society women in their late twenties and early thirties.  They had already gone through college.  Now they were expected to settle down and get married.  If one was adventurous, this would have been an irresistible opportunity at at time when women had few options in life.  

The Smith Relief Unit had to learn a variety of tasks such as building machines, tending livestock, planting crops, and driving trucks.  There was no one to give instructions, they just had to figure it out!

Historical Details:

This book was well researched with each chapter beginning with letters based on the real correspondence between the volunteers and their families.  The book was rich in details from the clothing to the types of food that were available in wartime.  I loved how all the supplies were precious to the people.  They used everything without waste.

Story:

The story followed the real events of this group during the war.  I actually checked what actually occurred because the events in this book were harrowing.  The first part of the book chronicles the steep learning curve of the volunteers. They had to be resourceful and persistent to get anything accomplished.  As their work progressed, they became beloved by the French citizens. 

The book really got compelling when the Germans orchestrated a final push in France.  Of all the books I have read on war, this one had some of the scariest scenes of being under siege I have ever read.  And throughout all of this, the women of Smith College performed amazing acts of bravery that were thrilling to read.

Romance:

Often when there is a romance in a book about war, things can get sappy very quickly.  But the romance in this book was a slow burn, and believable.  There is no rush to jump into bed, even if their lives are in danger.  The two people get to know each other though conversation and letter writing.  It was really lovely.


Rating:  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Release Date:  March 2nd, 2021

Author:  Lauren Willig

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Publisher:  William Morrow

Page Length:  528 Pages

Source:  Goodreads giveaway contest

Format:  Paperback ARC

Recommendation:  This historical fiction has it all:  amazing details, compelling characters, and an incredible story based on real events.  If you love historical fiction, this is a must read!

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