Girl at War by Sara Nović

Girl at WarAfter reading one excellent novel set in the former Yugoslavia I was definitely in the mood for another. Right after finishing The Wolf of Sarajevo I found myself cruising my public library’s online catalog when Sara Nović’s 2015 novel Girl at War caught my eye. Reading the book’s brief description, I was happy to see Nović’s novel is set in the small Balkan nation of Croatia. I was even happier to see Girl at War received a ton of accolades, including being named a finalist for LA Times Book Prize. Feeling optimistic I helped myself to an available copy. Before long I was whipping through Nović’s novel at a fast clip and much to my satisfaction enjoying every bit of it. I’m happy to report Girl at War is an outstanding debut novel and worthy of the praise it’s received.

Girl at War begins one hot and humid day in the Croatian capital of Zagreb. The year is 1991 and Yugoslavia has yet to fragment into a patchwork quilt of nations. Like the proverbial calm before the storm, before long 10-year-old tomboy Ana Jurić will experience the horrors of war once Croatia declares independence and the Serb-dominated Yugoslavian National Army and their allied paramilitaries attack the newly independent nation. From there the story shifts to 2001 with Ana a college student in New York City. Suffering from PTSD and probably some from of survivor’s guilt, she feels disconnected and unsatisfied to the world around her. With her relationship with her boyfriend Brian mediocre at best, the only person she shares a meaningful connection to is one of her college professors. Sensing Ana is not just a refugee, but more importantly also a survivor he supplies her with books by Primo Levi and W. G. Sebald, individuals like her who suffered the horrors of totalitarianism. But deep down, Ana knows she must confront the ghosts of her past and face her old fears. She must return to Croatia.

Like I said at the beginning, this is a terrific novel. Luckily for me I picked a great piece of fiction as a follow-up novel to The Wolf of Sarajevo. Please consider Girl at War highly recommended.

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10 Comments

Filed under Area Studies/International Relations, Current Affairs, Eastern Europe/Balkans, Europe, Fiction, History

10 responses to “Girl at War by Sara Nović

  1. I read this a while back and, like you, raced through it. When I finished, I remembering thinking it was good and very well-written, but probably not something that would stick in my head for long. How wrong I was! I think about certain scenes often and have been recommending it to all my friends ever since. As I look for more books to read about Croatia (before I visit later this year) this really stands out as one of the best.

  2. This is on my list to read since I saw it recommended on another site and now you’ve just increased my desire to read it so thank you!

  3. I read this just before it was released and thought it was an excellent introduction to the war and its aftermath, especially for the younger generation, and that sense of displacement no matter where you go. Glad to hear you enjoyed it too!

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