This is a work of nonfiction written with the narrative freedom and use of figurative language that we expect from fiction ... And though she avails herself of archival evidence, much of her narrative finds her imagining (a word she uses frequently) what it must have been like for nine women to escape annihilation together ... The history of murder that defined World War II suggests, even insists, that writers, filmmakers and artists be wary of purely aesthetic representations of the period. Yet it is the power of Ms. Strauss’s persistent sensibility that endows these events with a palpability that places them firmly in our imaginations. She concludes that these stories should be told and retold ... Numbers numb, but stories of the bliss of finding cooked potatoes in a broken world do not. Ms. Strauss does her readers—and her subjects—a worthy service by returning to this appalling history of the courage of women caught up in a time of rapacity and war.
Strauss learned of this story from one of the women, her great-aunt Hélène Podliasky, and spent years tracking down more information about the group of women who followed Hélène to freedom. The result is an intimate narrative tale of resilience, survival, and friendship. Time and again these women found themselves at terrible risk, but through their devotion to each other, the assistance of strangers (some motivated by kindness or guilt, others hoping for amnesty from the triumphant Allied forces), and just enough luck, they were able to survive the brutal deprivations of Nazi Germany ... a chilling reminder of the horrors of the concentration camps, but also a moving testament to the power of friendship.
A brisk yet uneven group biography of nine women who resisted the Nazis in WWII ... Strauss delves into the complications survivors faced in 'returning to life,' and infuses the narrative with harrowing details about Ravensbrück and intriguing asides on her research process, but the nature of how and why close relationships developed between these nine women remains somewhat unclear. Still, fans of women’s and WWII history will be drawn to this deeply researched chronicle.