Title: Victoria's War
Author: Catherine A. Hamilton
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Plain View Press
Publication date: June 2nd, 2020
Paperback: 276 pages


POLAND, 1939: Nineteen-year-old Victoria Darski is eager to move away to college: her bags are packed and her train ticket is in hand. But instead of boarding a train to the University of Warsaw, she finds her world turned upside down when World War II breaks out.

Victoria’s father is sent to a raging battlefront, and the Darski women face the cruelty of the invaders alone. After the unthinkable happens, Victoria is ordered to work in a Nazi sewing factory. When she decides to go to a resistance meeting with her best friend, Sylvia, they are captured by human traffickers targeting Polish teenagers. Sylvia is singled out and sent to work in the brothels, and Victoria is transported in a cattle car to Berlin, where she is auctioned off as a slave.

GERMANY, 1941: Twenty-year-old Etta Tod is at Mercy Hospital, where she’s about to undergo involuntary sterilization because of the Fuhrer’s mandate to eliminate hereditary deafness. Etta, an artist, silently critiques the propaganda poster on the waiting room wall while her mother tries to convince her she should be glad to get rid of her monthlies. Etta is the daughter of the German shopkeepers who buy Victoria at auction in Berlin.

The stories of Victoria and Etta intertwine in the bakery’s attic where Victoria is held—the same place where Etta has hidden her anti-Nazi paintings. The two women form a quick and enduring bond. But when they’re caught stealing bread from the bakery and smuggling it to a nearby work camp, everything changes.

My Rating: ★★★

A brilliant debut novel from author Catherine A. Hamilton. Victoria's War is a work of fiction but it's inspired by the lives of Polish women who were taken as slaves by the Germans during WWII. This is a book that grips you and won't let go. I found myself glued to the pages wanting to know more.

The story follows two women, Victoria, a polish girl who is kidnapped by the Germans during World War II and sold into slavery, and Etta, the deaf-mute daughter of Victoria's new owners. Despite being prohibited for germans and polish people to have close interactions, the two young women establish an emotional connection from the start. They become like sisters, their friendship being the only good thing that helps Victoria survive the cruel treatments she gets from Etta's family. Etta is also mistreated by her mother, who is a devoted Nazi, and hates the fact that her daughter has a disability. Etta is a brilliant young woman, intelligent, caring, and a talented painter, but she has the misfortune to live in a country were people like her are considered freaks of nature that need to be eliminated from society. That's why when the opportunity to rebel against the nazi regimen arises, Etta and Victoria take the chance to revolt in their own little way and help the poor unfortunate people kept as slaves in factories and brothels.

The story is deeply emotional. The description of the way Nazi soldiers treated war prisoners, the disarming cruelty towards not only the polish women but the Scandinavians in general and the tragic experiences these women go through are haunting. The prose is clear and concise and depicts a vivid image of the cruelty of the Third Reich and the horrors of war. But more than that, this is a story about friendship, compassion, loss, and survival. It not only provides a historically significant first-hand account of the German invasion of Poland but it's also a beautiful story of what it is to survive on nothing more than knowing that there is hope for something better. I highly recommend reading it!

*Many thanks to the author and publisher for sending me a copy of this book, in exchange for my honest review.