Sunday 25 February 2018

Fiction: Girl at War by Sara Novic

Little Brown €18.25

Exciting new writer: Sara Novic.
Exciting new writer: Sara Novic.
Girl at War by Sara Novic.

Margaret Carragher

Though history is littered with atrocities time has a way of dulling their impact. The bubonic plague may have killed millions in the Middle Ages but today its shock value has nothing on, say the Holocaust or 9/11. Which might explain the remarkable impact of Sara Novic's debut novel.

Opening in 1991 Girl at War tells the tale of Ana Juric, a ten-year-old living happily with her parents and baby sister Rahela in Zagreb. But then war breaks out across Yugoslavia; simultaneously Rahela falls gravely ill.

With no proper medical care available, Rahela's parents are given the opportunity of life-saving treatment for her in America, and foster care until she can return safely home.

The family travel to Sarajevo where they leave Rahela with an NGO medical team; but on the return journey they are ambushed by a gang of paramilitaries and marched through a forest at gunpoint to an open grave.

In the carnage that follows only Ana survives, scrambling over her parents' corpses to escape.

Fast forward to New York City 2001. Now happily reunited with her sister whose foster parents adopted them both, it would appear Ana has moved on from her wartime trauma.

But the 9/11 attacks trigger memories she cannot ignore; and in a bid to make peace with her past Ana returns to the country she once called home.

A brilliant first novel and audiobook from Sara Novic who suffered hearing loss as a child. An exciting new writer.

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