Growing up in Zagreb in the summer of 1991, 10-year-old Ana Juric is a carefree tomboy; she runs the streets with her best friend, Luka, helps take care of her baby sister, Rahela, and idolizes her father. But when civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, football games and school lessons are supplanted by sniper fire and air raid drills.
The brutal ethnic cleansing of Croats and Bosnians tragically changes Ana's life, and she is lost to a world of genocide and child soldiers; a daring escape plan to America becomes her only chance for survival. Ten years later she returns to Croatia, a young woman struggling to belong to either country, forced to confront the trauma of her past and rediscover the place that was once her home.
Girl At War is a haunting, compelling debut from a brilliant young writer, rooted in historical fact and personal experience. Sara has lived in the States and Croatia, and her novel bears witness to the haunting stories of her family and friends who lived through the height of the conflict, and reflects her own attempts to come to terms with her relationship to Croatia and its history. It is an extraordinary achievement for a novelist of any age, let alone age 26.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
a searing debut novel, one whose content lingers with you long after you have closed the pages * Herald * Girl at War depicts the still-fresh nightmare of the Yugoslavian civil war, survived by a girl much too young to know all she knows. Sara Novic writes with ruthless understatement not only about a modern city subjected to primitive horrors, but about young Ana's subsequent war against the American urge to forget. Sentence after perfectly weighted sentence lands with the sound of a gavel. The first fifty pages might be the best fifty pages you read this year * Jonathan Dee, author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Privileges and A Thousand Pardons * It always feel weird to call a book with such tragic subject matter a favourite, but I don't know a better way to explain just how highly I think of this book and how much it got under my skin. It is now, without doubt, one of my all-time favourite books. I stayed up all night just to read it and it was so beautiful and sad and heartbreakingly honest. I'd rate the book 5 stars out of 5 and I can't wait until I can buy a physical copy so it can take its well-earned place on my favourite's shelf * Bloggers-Heart-Books * A truly powerful, haunting debut . . . that has made an unforgettable impression upon me * Laura's Little Book Blog * Novic's debut novel is a stunning account of how the horrors and atrocities of war creep into everyday life and slowly tear apart the world of a young girl * Postgraduate Contemporary Women's Writing Network * If there's one good thing about the Booker Prize opening to American novels, it's that Girl at War can go up for it * Workshyfop * I think that if you are going to read only one book this year, you should make it Girl at War. Highly recommended! * Onmybookshelf * A searing debut novel, one whose content lingers with you long after you have closed the pages * Herald * Remarkable -- Julia Glass * Boston Globe * Novic's narrative is matter of fact, a chillingly effective way of describing the damage done by the war and its emotional impact on Ana * Sunday Express * There is something about a child's loss...that, done the right way, positively sears...Sara Novic rises to the challenge beautifully...Note perfect and ambitious in scope...make no mistake, at once visceral, tender and affecting, Novic and her debut are sitting pretty in a league of their own * Irish Independent * Sara Novic's powerful debut novel, Girl at War, is a superb exploration of conflict and its aftermath, and a stark reminder that while ceasefires and peace treaties may end the fighting, they don't always end the suffering * The National * A powerful and unforgettable novel that made me see Croatia in a whole new light * Stylist * Powerful and vividly wrought . . . Novic writes about horrors with an elegant understatement. In cool, accomplished sentences, we are met with the gravity, brutality and even the mundaneness of war and loss as well as the enduring capacity to live * San Francisco Chronicle * If we looked for and celebrated a "book of the summer" as we do that one song every year (what will it be this year?!), this novel would surely be this summer's star. This debut work from a rising author examines in painful, tender detail the cost of war on a young woman, many years after her simple life with her family in Croatia was interrupted by war. Ana, the main character, is haunted by the memories of what she thought her country once was, and how to deal with the secrets of what really happened to her and her family. * Vanity Fair * The first third of this gripping debut novel depicts the start of the Yugoslavian civil war through the eyes of Ana Juric, a ten-year-old girl residing with her family in Croatia's capital . . . Through Ana's journey, Novic, in tender and eloquent prose, explores the challenge of how to live even after one has survived * Oprah magazine * From its first sentence, Sara Novic's debut novel unfolds on both intimate and immense scales . . . The first section ends with a brilliantly abrupt, devastating event that essentially ends Ana's childhood. It's a scene that haunts the rest of the book . . . [Novic is]a writer whose own gravity and talent anchor this novel * New York Times * Novic's debut novel draws on her personal experiences of the break-up of the former Yugoslavia to craft a fiction that is heartfelt, in places harrowing, but ultimately redemptive * Mail on Sunday * A shattering debut . . . The book begins with what deserves to become one of contemporary literature's more memorable opening lines. The sentences that follow are equally as lyrical as a folk lament and as taut as metal wire wrapped through an electrified fence * USA Today * Astonishing . . . Girl at War is an extraordinarily poised and potent debut novel, a story about grief and exile, memory and identity, and the redemptive power of love * Financial Times * An outstanding first novel . . . Girl at War performs the miracle of making the stories of broken lives in a distant country feel as large and universal as myth * New York Times Book Review (Editor's Choice) * I read it in one night...devastating...Novic excels at distilling visual poetry from action scenes . . . [she] has breathed fire and ice into these pages. Immersing herself in the darkest materials, she has given us the real stuff dystopian fantasies are made of * Guardian * Set against the backdrop of the Bosnian Croat war, this vivid debut recalls Half of a Yellow Sun. Main character Ana's journey from a ten-year-old tomboy to young woman will leave you reeling * Stylist * [A] powerful, superbly written debut * Paperbacks of the Week, Mail on Sunday *