Girl at War
By Sara Novic
Perfect for fans of Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieTweet
Girl at War
Crown Posada Book Club GROUP REVIEW
Novic has undoubted, if somewhat misdirected, ability, One feels that somewhere along the line, the editor must have decided to pop out for a skinny latte. Because even Anthony Marra in his Sunday Book Review (NYT) has difficulty with Novics timeline. There is a justified sense of deflation as a consequence. Girl at War starts as a novel with a reasonable well rounded if well trodden war victim scenario; along the way it transforms in the authors mind into a virtual made for TV film script with all the folly that the visual world can bring to the written word. However the central core, that the brutality of war is balanced by the lingering emotional effects is the books saving grace. It then loses impact by stodge as the contrasts fade; Novic simply expects the reader to accept mere shadow characters that are no more than cardboard cut outs. Powerful writing, needs to be balanced carefully and frankly it isn't here; poor constructs in the way of flashbacks are fine if the reader knows where they are. I sense a desire to get this on the counter asap.
There is talent here, it just needs more time.
This book had some interesting bits, the start as seen through the eyes of the child Ana, during the civil war. When she loses her parents I thought this is getting interesting then nothing. Unfortunately it didn’t flow, suddenly its ten years later, then it’s back to the past. I never felt like I knew the characters and by the end I didn’t care about them either. Although an easy read it was not a pick up and don’t put down until you are finished. I read two other books while reading this.
Ten year old Ana Juric is the central character, and unlike many accounts of post 1980 wars, this novel it is not told through the eyes of adult combatants. This is where the strength of the narrative lies – a young girl caught up in a war she does not understand, and the effects it has on her and her family.
That it takes place in former Yugoslavia is almost irrelevant; this book is not a historical account of that conflict, and could have been set in Iraq, Afghanistan, or any other global war-zone. What it is, is an excellent, thought provoking, novel examining the effects of war on young children.
Ana is initially underwhelmed by the war and treats the air raid shelters as her new play place. The realities manifest when her parents are executed, and she ‘plays dead’ in an open grave.
In America, after her escape from her country of origin, she is clearly suffering from PTSD. Returning to Croatia as an adult, we learn that she became a child-soldier after leaving the open grave.
A powerful novel, the theme and the issues raised will remain with the reader long after the names of most characters are forgotten.
I enjoyed this book. Written by a survivor of modern warfare it was both a good and an easy read. Sara Novic is a child survivor of war in Zagreb and her accounts of the war and its effects on ordinary people, culminating in personal tragedy, are moving. That some children have been enabled to start a new life in the west is remarkable. I was pleased to be helped to understand the terror and tragedy of modern guerilla warfare and how it impacts on ordinary people. I highly recommend this book and will eagerly look out for more offerings by this exciting young author.