Book Review: Girl At War by Sara Nović

I admit there is a theme to my reading in the past year looking at the troubles in Bosnia and Serbia; but there is a wealth of fiction based off of fact and opinion on a topic that is highly controversial. This book is yet another beautifully written piece encroaching on topics that we should probably talk about.

A topic that has always intrigued me is how we as a society seem to forget about those who are affected by war and conflict. Personally, I have had a very lucky upbringing in the fact that I have been far away from any war that has been fought by my country. I have also had great fortune of meeting people from many walks of life through my various activities, including people part of the Serbian Airforce, U.S. and Canadian War Veterans to name a few. One thing that these people do not mention however is the civilian aspect. how could they give a valid opinion on this when they were the ones fighting? This is where fiction like Sara Nović’s book Girl at War comes in.

From start to finish this book is held together by tension, each sentence leading to the violence of the civil war. Set into different sections, this book follows the story of Ana, a woman living with the trauma of civil war. We are introduced to her 10 year old self in the first section. We are taken to Zagreb during the 1990s, introduced to the lifestyle, the culture and a child’s perspective of politics. The world is ultimately different back then. This is not just in the way that a child can buy cigarettes for their relatives; but the idea of innocence and unity. The outbreak of war shakes Ana’s world and we painted a vivid picture of torn up families, growing fear and growing xenophobia. The end of the first section took me by surprise and I found myself putting the book down and looking out the window feeling lucky for my situation in the world.

The second section looks at a grown Ana, who suppresses the past, refuses to tell people of her origins. It eats away at her and ultimately it leads her back to where it all began. Croatia. But before we see her return, the book launches back into the past with Ana’s younger self, giving the details of the war within the smaller villages and how innocence is ripped away from people and children.

This book is not a long read, but if you are like me and get caught up in a book, this is a long read. Having time to reflect between sections really brought the book together for me. The writing is fluid and enticing making it easy to devour in a couple of sittings. This book left me wanting more, even though there is closure, I’m still sat here wanting to know more. That in itself makes this book great as it leads the reader to research the topic further through eyes of different people, not just the eyes of Nović’s Ana.

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