Saturday, 26 December 2015

My Favourite Books of 2015 #5: 'Girl at War' by Sara Nović

We've had Christmas, been there, done that, and I'm currently finding myself at an airport. Now the countdown can start for New Year's Eve which means this list is coming to an end. We're officially come halfway, having covered YA, fantasy and sci-fi. I've got some absolutely amazing books for you in the top 5 though. For this list I'm not restricting myself to books that came out this year, although many of the ones featured on this list will probably have. Rather, I'm hoping that by the 31st I've been able to show you what has happened in my life, book-wise, the last twelve months! 

I read Girl at War for Little, Brown in May this year and was just blown away by it. Nović's writing is amazing and I was happy to see historical events such as the Yugoslav War getting the literary attention they deserve. I gave it 5 Universes and I have recommended it to a lot of people since.

Pub. Date: 21/05/2015
Publisher: Little, Brown

Growing up in Zagreb in the summer of 1991, 10-year-old Ana Juric is a carefree tomboy; she runs the streets with her best friend, Luka, helps take care of her baby sister, Rahela, and idolizes her father. But when civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, football games and school lessons are supplanted by sniper fire and air raid drills. 
The brutal ethnic cleansing of Croats and Bosnians tragically changes Ana's life, and she is lost to a world of genocide and child soldiers; a daring escape plan to America becomes her only chance for survival. Ten years later she returns to Croatia, a young woman struggling to belong to either country, forced to confront the trauma of her past and rediscover the place that was once her home.
Girl At War is a haunting, compelling debut from a brilliant young writer, rooted in historical fact and personal experience. Sara has lived in the States and Croatia, and her novel bears witness to the haunting stories of her family and friends who lived through the height of the conflict, and reflects her own attempts to come to terms with her relationship to Croatia and its history. It is an extraordinary achievement for a novelist of any age, let alone age 26.
From my review:
Sara Nović's novel is an absolutely enthralling read. Nović writes on relentlessly, no matter what she is discussing and how it might make her readers feel. It is incredibly important to have novels like Girl at War that tackle periods of history that aren't often discussed and do so in an open and honest way. Ana is a really interesting character, both an unreliable narrator and incredibly emphatic. The narrative doesn't move chronologically, meaning that the reader, at times, feels equally disjointed as Ana. Nović also doesn't shy away from not always giving an answer to the questions that she asks. How does one move on from spending their childhood seeing their country torn apart? How does moving away change your feelings about your home country? Having a child be her main character, Nović is able to both give the novel the sense of potential redemption while also having it be strangely depressing.
For the fact that this is a debut novel, Nović has an incredibly strong writing style which really gives her a voice throughout the novel. She manages to find a way to fluidly move between time periods and from horrendous war crimes to family memories. Nović tells Ana's tale in a way that is almost understated without censoring herself. She doesn't employ overly sentimental language in order to draw the reader in but rather lets the gravity of her story do that which makes it a very mature novel. Girl at War is not only a novel about war, but also about a girl. Ana is not only a survivor, but also a sister, daughter and friend. Nović doesn't let war consume her novel, which means that throughout her novel there is a ray of hope that not only Ana will be fine, but that her whole country will be.
Doesn't that sound good? Drop by my review for the rest and see if this is one for you!

Have you ever read a book about the Yugoslav War? And do you like reading historical fiction?

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