... brilliantly researched ... Batalion’s prose throbs with the incandescent fury and pain of her iron-willed heroines. Based on their accounts and those of their relatives, she reconstructs a riveting narrative of their lives as they organized rebellions, gathered arms, saved lives, and escaped death ... Batalion ambitiously introduces several revolutionary women, describing their acts of heroism with such fitting reverence that each one deserves a movie deal of her own ... It’s hard not to share the writer’s awe for these extraordinary people. A minor protest: The dizzying array of rich but short chronicles makes one long for fewer characters to be explored more deeply. In this, I appreciate Batalion’s enormous challenge in picking just a handful of tales to feature ... a grand celebration of the female spirit.
In [Battalion's] capable hands, their disparate voices are successfully woven together to create a gripping and horrifying narrative ... While some of the women’s stories are given more attention than others, the storytelling is clear and evocative even as it bounces from one character to the next. But it shouldn’t be mistaken for light reading. Details of what the women witnessed and endured, including severe physical torture and sexual violence, could be difficult even for seasoned readers of Holocaust literature. Batalion’s commitment to painstakingly recount each act of bravery and rebellion — one of the women refuses to wear a blindfold at her own execution — makes it an important addition to the genre of Jewish history ... It’s essential to tell more stories like The Light of Days if we are going to have a complete, truthful historical record, with women portrayed not just as girlfriends, assistants, or supporting characters, but as the powerful and effective leaders they are.
Why, Batalion wonders, had she not heard these women’s stories before? She stumbled across them only by chance on the dustier shelves of London’s British Library. The problem she then confronted in writing this book, which pulses with both rage and pride, was choosing which women to include and which to leave out. Her desire to pay tribute to as many as possible is understandable, but a simpler narrative with fewer subjects might have been even more powerful.
Writing with passion and novelistic license, Batalion takes readers deep into the psyches of these women ... Batalion’s research is prodigious, and her dedication to her story obvious and moving. But the book’s very scope—its huge cast of characters, geographical sweep, and mix of chronological and thematic organization—may deter less committed readers. Another challenge is Batalion’s insistence on depicting the pointillist horrors of the genocide ... When Batalion unsparingly describes the bloodbaths in the ghetto streets, or descends into the sadistic hell of Nazi prisons, the temptation is to turn away. These brave women could not.
... in her well-researched and riveting chronicle The Light of Days, Judy Batalion brings these unsung heroines to the forefront ... This group portrait forcefully counters the myth of Jewish passivity, at once documenting the breadth and extent of Jewish activism throughout the ghettos and underlining in particular the crucial roles women played in the fight to survive. Indeed, several of the women whose stories Ms. Batalion tells also helped lead the most significant act of anti-Nazi Jewish resistance, the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising, which is recounted here in brutal detail ... Ms. Batalion’s book is both comprehensive and important, but reading it can prove frustrating and confusing, especially as the author toggles back and forth in time and from one woman’s story to another. And although Ms. Batalion does not flinch from describing the wanton acts of Nazi-inflicted cruelty and torture these women witnessed and endured, readers may need to pause for air. Yet spelling out the specifics of these horrors underscores the monumental strength and resolve these extraordinary women possessed. The Light of Days pays tribute to their individual grit and their collective will to keep the Jewish people alive.
... a conscious attempt to restore that missing page ... [a] sometimes dizzying cast of characters ... Batalion writes history that seeks to emphasise the agency and resistance of the human spirit in the face of oppression ... Batalion’s book is passionately researched and written with the quick-cutting thrust of an action film. (Steven Spielberg is developing it for the screen). If it has a flaw, it’s that at times her characters feel too much like one woman. They have a saintly, faceless quality, and though I read this book in awe of their heroism, I finished it having never quite met their eyes.
... scrupulously researched ... a huge achievement that brings an overarching coherence to this largely unknown story ... Batalion uses a kind of you-are-there approach that at times feels awkward but dramatically makes its point in the end ... also offers arresting insights into community life during this perilous time. It is astounding to read about the number and variety of Jewish youth groups that commanded the loyalties of young people. It’s also surreal to learn that mail continued to circulate among Jewish communities even as the Nazi killing machine was roaring down the tracks ... Batalian interviewed many survivors’ families, and these passages in the book invite us to wonder what it would be like to battle and survive for half a decade, witnessing the loss of friends and family, only to resume a 'normal' life after experiencing all that trauma.
... fascinating ... Based on more than a decade of research, Batalion’s work presents a largely unacknowledged story of nearly unimaginable heroism in the face of horror. Utilizing memoirs, diaries, testimonies, and interviews of Holocaust survivors, the volume features complicated stories that have resonance and relevance. Of particular interest is Battalion’s discussion of not only her research and personal interest in the histories of the women and their families but also of the equally complex and nuanced meanings of female empowerment and resistance and what that means for succeeding generations ... Recommended for readers of World War II history and women’s and Jewish studies.
Stories of Jewish women who resisted the Nazi regime have been woefully neglected in modern history ... Batalion spent years researching, pouring over memoirs and testimonies, and even meeting with the women’s children. The result is a harrowing record of the resiliency of the human spirit and the power of female friendship. An important work, sure to become part of the WWII canon.
Resounding history of Jewish women who fought the German invaders in World War II ... Those women, Batalion convincingly argues, have often been misrepresented ... In a vigorous narrative that draws on interviews, diaries, and other sources, Batalion delivers an objective view of past events that are too quickly being forgotten—and a story much in need of telling. A welcome addition to the literature of the Shoah and of anti-Nazi resistance.
Memoirist Batalion (White Walls) delivers a remarkable portrait of young Jewish women who fought in the Polish resistance during WWII ... Batalion allows her subjects to speak for themselves whenever possible, weaving a vast amount of research material into a cohesive and dramatic narrative. This poignant history pays vivid tribute to 'the breadth and scope of female courage.'