For readers of The Tiger’s Wife and All the Light We Cannot See comes a powerful debut novel about a girl’s coming of age—and how her sense of family, friendship, love, and belonging is profoundly shaped by war.
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY BOOKPAGE, BOOKLIST, AND ELECTRIC LITERATURE • ALEX AWARD WINNER • LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE FINALIST • LONGLISTED FOR THE BAILEYS WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION
Zagreb, 1991. Ana Jurić is a carefree ten-year-old, living with her family in a small apartment in Croatia’s capital. But that year, civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, splintering Ana’s idyllic childhood. Daily life is altered by food rations and air raid drills, and soccer matches are replaced by sniper fire. Neighbors grow suspicious of one another, and Ana’s sense of safety starts to fray. When the war arrives at her doorstep, Ana must find her way in a dangerous world.
New York, 2001. Ana is now a college student in Manhattan. Though she’s tried to move on from her past, she can’t escape her memories of war—secrets she keeps even from those closest to her. Haunted by the events that forever changed her family, Ana returns to Croatia after a decade away, hoping to make peace with the place she once called home. As she faces her ghosts, she must come to terms with her country’s difficult history and the events that interrupted her childhood years before.
Moving back and forth through time, Girl at War is an honest, generous, brilliantly written novel that illuminates how history shapes the individual. Sara Nović fearlessly shows the impact of war on one young girl—and its legacy on all of us. It’s a debut by a writer who has stared into recent history to find a story that continues to resonate today.
Praise for Girl at War
“Outstanding . . . Girl at War performs the miracle of making the stories of broken lives in a distant country feel as large and universal as myth.”—The New York Times Book Review (Editor’s Choice)
“[An] old-fashioned page-turner that will demand all of the reader’s attention, happily given. A debut novel that astonishes.”—Vanity Fair
“Shattering . . . The book begins with what deserves to become one of contemporary literature’s more memorable opening lines. The sentences that follow are equally as lyrical as a folk lament and as taut as metal wire wrapped through an electrified fence.”—USA Today
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Review: Girl at War by Sara Nović
When starting this book, I didn’t expect the experience I had from reading it. Girl at War is a beautifully written, intense, and captivating début novel. If I hadn’t known this was Nović’s début, I’d have assumed there was a backlist to check out. There isn’t, yet, though. This author is just that talented from the start.
The first person narrative was key to drawing the reader into the experiences of being a child during a war. Ana is trying to have a childhood in a city that’s being bombed from the air. Her family has just enough rationed food to not waste away. And there’s always a lingering knowledge that a loved one might not walk through the door at the end of the day. Along with all of this, Rahela, Ana’s baby sister’s health is a major concern tearing at the family. This is troublesome for any person to live through, but for a ten-year-old, it’s a very impressionable time. Nović portrayal of this child in a war-torn setting had me closing the book every now and then just to absorb it all, knowing that this was the childhood of many kids only a few decades ago, and in places around the world today.
I also thought that after the initial set-up of Ana’s childhood, jumping to her in her twenties in New York City. Ana’s juggling college, a relationship, and memories of her past effecting her more and more each day. With this and flashback scenes, the reader gets the full scope of Ana’s life journey and her journey to heal, to look for answers, to not forget.
This book, its setting, its characters, and the gorgeous writing, it will stay with me for a long time. It has been a long time since a book has had an effect on me like Girl at War has. It may have ruined me for whatever book I read next. And I’m ok with that.
Recommend for people who enjoy historical fiction. This novel provides great insight into a conflict that the Americans (for the most part) greatly ignored. It was interesting to learn about this subject because this war is vaguely mentioned in most History curriculums in American Public High Schools.