Published By: Boldwood
Released On: 24/04/2023
Summer 1941. War rages in Europe. The Germans march towards Ukraine. Halya, Liliya and Vika are no strangers to sorrow. They lost family during the Holodomor, loved ones in Stalin’s purges, and war looms once more on the horizon.
Vika lives in fear for her children. She and her sister survived the terror famine by leaving their whole family behind. Now, years later, many believe the Germans will free them from the Soviets, but she’s not so sure. Should they stay in Volhynia or flee the approaching Eastern front?
Liliya has lost too much in her 17 years. As those around her join the resistance, Liliya wonders how she can fight for her friends, family, and country. When the choice is made for her, can she find the will to survive and protect those still with her?
Twelve-year-old Halya is struggling to discover who she is. But as the war escalates, can her mother Katya’s tactics keep her safe from the Nazi soldiers rounding up slave laborers? How can a child survive the horrors of war on her own?
Thanks to NetGalley and Boldwood for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.
I absolutely adored Erin’s book The Memory Keeper of Kyiv. It was (unfortunately) very timely and heart-breaking and just beautifully written.
It’s sad that more is not known about the atrocities Ukrainians suffered between and during the first and second world wars. We, of course, know so much about the Holocaust, but not about Holodomor, and whilst this isn’t a direct sequel of The Memory Keeper, it does build upon the atrocities experienced.
Whilst it isn’t a direct sequel, and you can read this one without the other, I do think you’ll get more meaning if you read both stories.
This felt different to the first book because it felt familiar. The events of The Memory Keeper I hadn’t heard of before so it was something new. Whereas with this one, whilst I didn’t necessarily know the plights of the Ukrainians at that time, the World War 2 setting felt scarily familiar – especially at this current time where we risk repeating history.
It took me a little while to read it. And that’s not because it was hard to read or slow or anything negative. I feel like this is, much like the other one, such an important story that every single word deserves to be read and absorbed and not just skimmed over.
Whilst – from what I can tell online – Erin is not Ukrainian-born and doesn’t live in Ukraine, you can feel how much the country runs through her blood and the passion she has for the country and its people and its history.
There’s many characters to talk about, who I won’t go into too much detail about, but we have three main characters: Vika, Liliya, and Halya, alongside others in their individual stories such as Nina, Slavko, Okeksiy, and Filip – they all bring so much to the three main plots and not one of them is surplus. They’re brilliantly written and developed. I also love how they intertwine. Yes, we’re reading three separate stories, but like a lot of tragedy, these three girls/women are not alone, and you start seeing what they mean to one another, which is also expertly done. They’re not forced together, and you don’t lose the importance of each person’s own journey, but you do get this sense of family and community.
I liked that the book didn’t finish when the war finished. As historians have told us, the effects of the war went far beyond 1945, btu we don’t always heat about that, and I felt that was important to read. It wasn’t simply a case of, “the war is over, everything’s back to normal now”.
This book had the power to be incredibly sad. And don’t get me wrong, it is. It’s terrible and heart-breaking and unbelievably sad. But she’s managed to invoke a sense of hope. She doesn’t shy away from the horrors – the bombs, the shooting, the camps, the rapes, the killings. But I think it’s actually because she includes such atrocities that we get this sense of hope amongst the characters, even if they aren’t feeling it themselves.
I think above all, I’d use the word ‘sensitive’ to describe this. Erin’s not hidden the bad things or over-egged the good. She has managed to explore Ukraine’s history, and in a way it almost feels present, in such a beautifully, caring, moving, sensitive way. This and The Memory Keeper should both be required reading, no more than at this difficult time for the country and it’s people.
I would defy anyone to not read this in one sitting. It’s so captivating that you just can’t put it down until you know how each person’s story ends, and whilst it’s not always good news, you feel at peace with their choices. I really hope this isn’t the end of Erin’s Ukraine-themed stories as they’re just such good reading.