Survival is a minute-by-minute endurance test, and Robuck wrings out every sweat-laden drop of emotion from their plight. You can almost feel your stomach growl when she describes the half-pint of thin rhubarb soup allotted to the prisoners each day. Horror pervades every corner of the camps, yet Robuck manages to keep humanity’s candle flickering at the gates of hell ... Violette and Virginia are two women whose stories needed to be told, particularly now that most of the people who fought in WWII are gone. Robuck has done their memory great honor.
The novel’s first third jumps back and forth between the two women, providing their backgrounds and personalities, and I found this part low-key and largely unnecessary. I didn’t get into the story and start caring about the characters until the women put their lives on the line with their involvement in the Comet Line and SOE. Later, after both are arrested, Violette is interrogated, and they are shipped off to Ravensbrück, where they hold onto their humanity and sanity through courage and resistance. This part was raw and brought tears to my eyes. However, I question the author’s choice of using first-person narrative, since it didn’t bring the characters closer for me.