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  • I love the strong female characters!

    I love stories of strong women who contribute in unique ways to our world. In Band Of Sisters by Lauren Willig, we see the role of a group of Smith College alumni who gather together and play a significant role in France during WWI. This historical fiction book is both inspiring and engaging. The novel is based on the author’s extensive research into the unit and includes several actual letters written by members of the Smith College relief unit to their families back in the U.S. The main character is Kate Moran who, unlike most of the other Smith women, attended the college on a full scholarship. The book also focuses on Kate’s college best friend Emmeline, who comes from a family of wealth and strong social standing. These women were all volunteers and wanted to play a role which reached out and helped French communities that experienced the decimation left by the Germans. What this unit endured and accomplished was, simply said, remarkable. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I am not one to gravitate to historical fiction set in times of war, but I found this book to create the setting without too much gore. I loved the inclusion of actual letters and the level of research about this unit. With a large cast of characters it can be difficult to keep all their stories straight, but I did not find this to be much of a challenge with this book. I appreciated the personal changes in these women as the story progressed, especially seen through the lens of Kate’s character. What had been a group of strangers from different family backgrounds brought together for a common purpose, truly turned into a Band of Sisters who gave wholly of themselves to support one another and those around them. I listened to the audiobook version of this book which was narrated by one of my favourite performers, Julia Whelan. I appreciated her tone, articulation and pacing of this story which assisted in keeping me engaged throughout. I listened to the book at my usual 1.25x speed and found this to be a comfortable listening experience. I would not hesitate to recommend the audiobook version of the book to those that appreciate this format. Thanks to Harper Audio and Netgalley for the ARC of this audiobook in exchange for the honest review provided here.

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  • Excellent Historical Fiction

    This is my first "solo" book by Lauren Willig (I've read a couple of her collaborations with Beatriz Williams and Karen White) but it certainly won't be my last. This was fascinating historical fiction, based on the experiences of the Smith College Relief Unit, a group of Smith College alumnae who aided in humanitarian relief work in France during and after the First World War. These were young women who signed up for various reasons and with various expectations, but once they got to France most of them found that what they'd actually be doing didn't quite match up with their expectations. Most of these were privileged young women from wealthy families. The two main characters were roommates at Smith, but came from vastly different backgrounds, one from a wealthy family, the other a scholarship student with a bit of a chip on her shoulder because she never felt she fit in at Smith, despite her many accomplishments there and the friendship of her roommate. Many events in the book are based on letters from the women of the unit to their friends and family back home, which Willig found in her research. The growth of these young women is fascinating to watch, learning skills and lessons that they never expected when they signed up for the unit. Julia Whelan's narration of the audiobook is impeccable. Be sure not to miss the "Historical Note" at the end, where Willig describes how the book came about, and to do a web search for images of the Smith College Relief Unit. They deserve to be remembered. My thanks to Netgalley and Harper Audio for providing a copy for an unbiased review.

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  • Well-Done Historical Fiction Deeply Rooted in Fact

    Novel and Audiobook Review I love historical fiction that draws from fact, and clearly, from the author's note, this one does. In fact, as I listened to it (and followed along with the eBook), I was inspired to look up information about the actual Smith unit. I had no idea that a small group of young women, all graduates of Smith College, went to France during World War I to help villagers near Grecourt. The author has fictionalized history, giving the young women fictional names and otherwise mixing fact and fiction, but many key events actually happened to these brave young women. The author did her research, reading the actual letters of all these young women. The author gave an immediacy to the horrors of war as lived on the homefront, as these young women tried to help the surrounding villages without many resources. The young women faced personal privation themselves yet still tried to do all they could for the beleaguered French countrymen. The author writes of the horrific scars and the crude medical techniques of the time. Toward the end of the book, the frontline encroaches upon them, forcing them to flee as battles come their way. The book has a quite large cast of characters to keep track of, but the author managed to keep them distinct, each with her own story, goals, and motivations. There's some infighting, of course, and hiccups along the way, but these young women truly do become what the title states, a band of sisters. I love historical fiction that shows women's perspectives in times of war or other world difficulties. I thought this was very well done. Highly recommended. The narrator of the audiobook did a fantastic job. Even though the book had so many female characters, she was able to make each sound unique. I even liked her voice for the British captain, the love interest of one of the women. I received a free copy of this book (and audiobook), but that did not affect my review.

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