Author: Christopher de Vinck
Publisher: Harper Inspire
Genre: Historical fiction
Book format: Paperback (pre-release proof copy)
Description: Belgium, July 1939: Simone Lyon is the daughter of a Belgium national hero, the famous General Joseph Lyon. Her best friend Hava Daniels, is the eldest daughter of a devout Jewish family. Despite growing up in different worlds, they are inseparable.
But when, in the spring of 1940, Nazi planes and tanks begin bombing Brussels, their resilience and strength are tested. Hava and Simone find themselves caught in the advancing onslaught and are forced to flee.
In an emotionally-charged race for survival, even the most harrowing horrors cannot break their bonds of love and friendship. The two teenage girls, will see their innocence fall, against the ugly backdrop of a war dictating that theirs was a friendship that should never have been.
*Free copy provided by publisher for review…
Review: Oh my goodness, I’m in tears after reading this book, it’s such a beautiful and touching novel with both happy and sad moments. Eighteen year old Simone Lyon and her friend Hava Daniels quickly become best friends when they meet as volunteers for the Red Cross. The two become like sisters, and it isn’t long before Simone, who lives with her father, feels a part of Hava’s family too. When war begins and Simone’s father has to leave, and Hava becomes seperated from her family, the two girls quickly find themselves rushing to escape Belgium and the invading Nazi forces. But wherever they run, the Nazi’s soon follow.
This feels like such an amazing novel and I’m surprised with how quickly I became engrossed in the story. Mostly set in Brussels, the story begins with a short prologue before starting before the war, when Simone and Hava first meet. Hava’s family is Polish and Jewish and despite knowing that this book would eventualy take a sad turn as the war came to Belgium, I really loved these early chapters showing the developing story around the two girls and how beautiful and strong their friendship is. The chapters are very short but I love the way this first part of the book builds up this bond of friendship and it made me really love Hava’s character as she’s a bit eccentric and silly at times (reminding me a bit of myself as a teenager!).
The story is told from Simone’s point of view and each chapter is, as I said quite short, with the whole pace of the novel being fast. I like this fast pace as it keeps the whole tale moving along quickly and kept me wanting to turn the pages. Each chapter begins with an excerpt at the top in italics, either from a real speech by a country’s leader (such as Churchill or Hitler), a quote by someone else involved in the war or a short piece of information about what was happening during the war. These short extracts are so well placed, often giving insight into what happens in the next chapter, or making you think about what would happen to some of the characters. Many of the excerpts also explain things I didn’t know about, things that were happening in the war at the time but that to this day I’d never heard of. Not all the extracts are easy to read though and some of the quotes especially from Hitler’s speeches did make me for uncomfortable reading although I’m still glad they were included. For example there are some quotes about Polish people (not just Jews) which show the extent of hatred there was for them as well as a few other different kinds of people. This felt sad and uncomfortable for me personally as I have Polish family, but I do like the fact it’s included as it’s important to know twhat truly happened.
In the story, the journey the girls take is a long one and is filled with lots of different moments, some happy and others sad. I like how this book shows the way that some people chose to act during the war and how not all of them were helpful although there are acts of great kindness too. The ending is one I did like although I was left with mixed emotions at the end. In fact I was very tearful, especially after I read something about a name of a certain character. The story is filled with so much hope and sadness all at the same time. There are good moments mixed with very sad ones and it does give you a good insight into how life was for people going through the war, but that ending is a mixture of something sad and yet also uplifting.
I’d really recommend everyone to read this novel, it’s so easy to get into and I think it would make for great reading for teenagers as well as adults due the fast pace and young characters. Whether you usually enjoy reading historical fiction about the Second World War or not, this book is not only a powerful story, but it also teaches you so much about what was happening at the time, and gives you an insight into what was happening in Belgium too. This is such a poignant and beautiful novel and at the same time quite educational without feeling like it, it’s also inspired by true events which the author has a close connection with, making it all the more interesting to read. It’s such a brilliant book and it’s one I hope everyone reads!
-Ashes is released on 20th August 2020!
What do you think of this book? Have you read any historical fiction about the second world war? How was your family affected by the war? Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂