Kate Moran, a Smith College alumnus and former scholarship student, has graduated and is trying to earn her living when she is contacted by her best friend Emmeline Van Alden. Kate is asked to join a group of Smith alumni who are going to help French civilians during World War I. She can’t imagine being able to go, but when she is asked to take the place of a girl who dropped out, she agrees. The Smith group meets a scene of devastation far worse than they ever imagined, but they pitch in and do their best to help. Along they way, they are shelled by the enemy and hampered by bureaucracy at every turn. Kate and the others learn to face and beat these challenges and more. But Kate’s biggest challenges may be learning to trust her fellow Smithies and rising beyond the label of “scholarship girl.”
This is a well written novel based on the true story of the Smith College Relief Fund and their work in France during World War I. Each chapter starts with an actual letter from one of the alumni. Some of the events described in these letters are incorporated into the book. The characters are well developed and interesting. The concept of class in the midst of war is fascinating. Will the privileged hang on to their prejudices while people are suffering and the Kaiser is trying to kill them all? Willig expertly, through her well-crafted characters, shows the conflicts between classes and shows that people are not always as they seem. In many different ways, Willig reveals Kate’s struggles to see the truth about herself through her own eyes and not her perceptions of what others might be thinking. A little humor and a love story are also threaded nto this captivating tale, which fans of historical fiction and World War I fiction will enjoy.
I received a free advance review copy of this book from William Morrow and Custom House via Netgalley. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.
Band of Sisters will be released on March 2, 2021.
About the Author
Lauren Willig is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than twenty works of historical fiction, including Band of Sisters, The Summer Country, The English Wife, the RITA Award-winning Pink Carnation series, and three novels co-written with Beatriz Williams and Karen White. Her books have been translated into over a dozen languages, awarded the RITA, Booksellers Best, and Golden Leaf awards, and chosen for the American Library Association’s annual list of the best genre fiction. An alumna of Yale University, she has a graduate degree in history from Harvard and a JD from Harvard Law School. She lives in New York City with her husband, two young children, and vast quantities of coffee.