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May 16, 2023

Resilient Women of WWII by Elaine Stock ~ a Series Review

by Susan Roberts

This new trilogy is a beautiful look at the importance of women's friendship during the time period of World War II.  Despite what was going on in Europe, these women helped each other survive and get through these tumultuous times.
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We Shall Not Shatter

book cover of historical fiction novel We Shall Not Shatter by Elaine Stock
May 2022; Amsterdam Publishers; 978-9493231788
ebook, print (308 pages); historical fiction

An unforgettable story of friendship, family and hope as two courageous young women face one of history's most horrific tragedies.

Zofia and Aanya became friends when they were young in Brzeziny, Poland.  They were totally different - Zofia was a Catholic and Aanya was Jewish and deaf. Despite their differences, they remained best friends.  Zofia learns to use sign language and they communicate through sign language and written notes.  In 1939, the threat of war is looming closer.  Zofia is married and has a small son.  Her husband has disappeared and she has no idea if he is in a German camp or part of the resistance.  He very firmly told her before he disappeared, that she needed to take their son and go to America where he had a cousin who was willing to take her in.  Aanya lives near her friend with her mother and is studying to be a doctor.  When the hatred begins to grow, both women are targeted -- Aanya for being Jewish and Zofia for being a friend of  a Jewish person. As the war and the violence invade their small town, their friendship is put to the test.  Will they remain friends?  Will Zofia be able to leave for the US or will the borders be closed before she can fulfill her husband's wishes?  

Zofia and Aanya's friendship is so beautiful and is really the entire backbone of the story.  Both characters are well-written and believable.  They both treasure their homes and families and are desperate not to lose them as the war made huge changes in their lives.  Will either of them survive the war to continue their friendship in a safer world?

Be sure to read the author's notes at the end of the book.  This story was inspired by the author’s paternal heritage from Poland.  This is a heartbreaking yet beautiful story of two women who are determined to remain united in friendship and to live freely despite the odds.

We Shall Not Shatter is the first book in a planned trilogy.  I can't wait to read the new books and be taken back into the world that Elaine Stock creates for her readers which is full of friendship and love despite the hardships going on in the world.

Buy We Shall Not Shatter at Amazon

Our Daughters' Last Hope

book cover of historical fiction novel Our Daughters' Last Hope by Elaine Stock
September 2022; Amsterdam Publishers; 978-9493276437
ebook, print (324 pages); historical fiction

This new book begins right where book one ended.  Herta (Aanya) and her family have been turned away from the United States in 1939 and sent back to Europe.  Instead of going back to their home in Germany, they decide to settle their family in Amsterdam where they feel that they'll be safe from Hitler's plan to eradicate the Jewish population.  Herta and Kurt and their two daughters lived peacefully in Amsterdam until the Spring of 1940, when the Germans invade the Netherlands.  They realize that they are in danger because they are Jewish so they all got forged papers and started to live as a Christian family.

Julia, her husband, and her two daughters have roots in Amsterdam for generations.  After the invasion, her husband sides strongly with the Nazis and works very hard to become part of their alliance with the police.  Julia is mainly concerned with her children and getting food on the table and keeping her daughters safe She doesn't share his anti-Jewish beliefs but is unable to express her opinions without worrying about him abusing her in his anger.

When Herta and Julia meet, they both are keeping major secrets.  Herta has sent her two daughters to safety outside the country and her husband has disappeared.  Julia offers her a home and because she has nowhere else to go, she accepts.   As the two women become closer they start to help the resistance doing jobs that could not only harm them but their daughters will also be in danger.

Can these two women remain friends when they each learn the secrets that are being hidden?  Will they be able to continue their help to the resistance and will their friendship help them survive during a war that is full of hatred??  Can they continue to trust each other?

Elaine Stock has done considerable research and her characters perfectly reflect what was going on at this time.  Her two main characters are well-written with all of their flaws apparent.  The friendship between these two women was strong and they were both braver and more resilient than they knew.  I won't soon forget Herta and Julia and how the strength of their friendship protected not only their families but also other people who were in danger.

Book Three in this series is due to publish in the Spring of 2023 and I can't wait to read it and be taken back into the world that Elaine Stock creates for her readers that is full of friendship and love despite the hardships going on in the world.

When We Disappeared

book cover of historical fiction novel When We Disappeared by Elaine Stock
May 2023; Amsterdam Publishers; 978-9493276581
ebook, print (306 pages); historical fiction

Elaine Stock has completed her Resilient Women of WWII with another strong book about two women who become friends and work together to fight against the Nazi hatred that had taken over Germany.

Edith lives with her sister and her mother in Amsterdam.  Their father has been arrested and they are in fear of being arrested even though they have forged papers and live their lives as Christians.  Their mother, Herta, decides to send both girls into hiding for their safety knowing that she may never see them again.  Edith changes her name to Elsa and goes into hiding at a farm where several young people are staying.  The farmer is only keeping them for the money that he gets from the resistance and he has raped Edith and several of the other girls living there.  When she escapes, she flees to the nearest big city.  She falls and hurts her ankle and is not able to continue her escape.  She's befriended by Erich, a young man she knows nothing about and he takes her to his palatial home in Germany to recover.  Once there, she feels that she has jumped from the frying pan into the fire.  Erich's parents are staunch Nazis and she has no idea if Erich is a Nazi and if her life is in danger.  After her recovery from her broken ankle, she's asked to be the teacher for two younger twins and is sent to room with Adela in a basement room.  There the two women from totally different backgrounds become friends.

Vonni lived with her family in Czechoslovakia and left the family compound to try to find her father.  As a member of the Roma group, she knows that her life is in danger because the Nazis are always on the lookout for the people they refer to as gypsies to send them to the camps.  Her search for her father takes her to Vienna.  When she gets sick, she is befriended by a young Jewish couple with two small children and takes the name Adela.  When the Nazis start rounding up Jewish people in Vienna, the young couple disappears and Vonni is left alone.    She's befriended by a young German man who takes her to his family home to recover and they hire her as a maid.

So now we have Elsa and Adela living in a palatial estate in the heart of Germany, both in fear of being found out that they are not the people they profess to be.  What's worse is that the owner of the estate and his wife are strong and loyal members of the Nazi party.  Are the two sons also Nazis who will turn in the two young girls or are they part of the resistance who will help them escape? When they flee to Vienna, they are scared that they will be discovered by the Nazis at the checkpoints along the trip.  Their trip to Vienna is a real nail-biter and kept me turning the pages in hopes that they would remain safe.

This third book in the trilogy features two women who become friends and become stronger and more resilient as they work together to find a safe place.  The author has done extensive research and it's apparent on every page.  This book could be read as a standalone with minimal confusion but there is a relationship between one of the women and her parents from book 2 that may cause some questions. My recommendation is to read all three of the books in the series in order for maximum enjoyment.

I read a lot of World War II fiction and this is one of the best series that I've read.  All three books feature strong women from very different backgrounds who became friends and work to help each other stay safe.

Buy When We Disappeared at Amazon

About the Publisher:  Amsterdam Publishers is the largest publisher of Holocaust memoirs in Europe. It was founded in 2012 by Dutch art historian Liesbeth Heenk.  For a full list of their books go to:

Susan Roberts grew up in Michigan but loves the laid-back life at her home in the Piedmont area of North Carolina where she is two hours from the beach to the east and the mountains in the west.  She reads almost anything but her favorite genres are Southern Fiction and Historical Fiction.   

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