Review of Victoria’s War, by Catherine A. Hamilton

Well, the sun has sunk its fiery head below the horizon to close a wintry Sunday. The weekend is almost history, but I want to spin the time dial back into this past weekend, for a moment.

i want to talk about an excellent book I had the opportunity to read these last few days. As you’ve “guessed” from the title, the book in question is Victoria’s War, by Catherine A. Hamilton.

Here’s what Amazon says:

In Victoria’s War, Hamilton gives voice to the courageous Polish women who were kidnapped into the real-life Nazi slave labor operation during WWII. Inspired by true stories, this lost chapter of history won’t soon be forgotten.POLAND, 1939: Nineteen-year-old Victoria Darski is eager to move away to college: her bags are packed and her train ticket is in hand. But instead of boarding a train to the University of Warsaw, she finds her world turned upside down when World War II breaks out. Victoria’s father is sent to a raging battlefront, and the Darski women face the cruelty of the invaders alone. After the unthinkable happens, Victoria is ordered to work in a Nazi sewing factory. When she decides to go to a resistance meeting with her best friend, Sylvia, they are captured by human traffickers targeting Polish teenagers. Sylvia is singled out and sent to work in brothels, and Victoria is transported in a cattle car to Berlin, where she is auctioned off as a slave.GERMANY, 1941: Twenty-year-old Etta Tod is at Mercy Hospital, where she’s about to undergo involuntary sterilization because of the Fuhrer’s mandate to eliminate hereditary deafness. Etta, an artist, silently critiques the propaganda poster on the waiting room wall while her mother tries to convince her she should be glad to get rid of her monthlies. Etta is the daughter of the German shopkeepers who buy Victoria at auction in Berlin.The stories of Victoria and Etta intertwine in the bakery’s attic where Victoria is held the same place where Etta has hidden her anti-Nazi paintings. The two women form a quick and enduring bond. But when they’re caught stealing bread from the bakery and smuggling it to a nearby work camp, everything changes.

My Turn:

Now, I have to admit, I like reading just about everything WWII, but this book was so well crafted and researched, that it had my full attention and left a lasting impression.

Catherine does a fantastic job of creating realistic characters and scenarios. I couldn’t help but feel a range of emotions towards both the prisoners, and some of the helpful Germans, alike. The fate of one character, I won’t spoil it, caused a lump in my throat.

This is not a shoot-em-up, we’re the greatest heroes ever, type of story. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of suspense and action, too.

Victoria’s War is exactly what the title suggests. It’s about the tragic experiences of a young and innocent woman who was forced to grow in self-confidence and courage. I believe that Victoria represents so many that went through those horrific trials.

If you’re queasy, rest easy. The descriptions of the prisoner camps and victims is sprinkled throughout, but just enough to give you an impression of the conditions. There are no excessively gory details.

What I came away with is a new respect for the courage and resilience of the brave men and women who fought against tyranny, in the face of extreme danger and nearly insurmountable odds. Many selfless and self-sacrificing acts of kindness are carried out and warm the heart against the chill of the Nazi regime.

Five Stars!

Meet Catherine:

A native Oregonian of Polish descent, Catherine A. Hamilton spent several years as a freelance writer. Her articles and poems have appeared in The Sarasota Herald Tribune, The Oregonian, The Catholic Sentinel, and The Polish American Journal. She is the author of a chapter, “Katherine Graczyk”; in Forgotten Survivors: Polish Christians Remember the Nazi Occupation. Edited by Richard C. Lukas, pp.31-37, (University Press of Kansas, 2004). Her debut novel, Victoria’s War, is now available: Plain View Press (2020).
Hamilton lives in the Northwest with her husband.

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Guest Post by Robbie Cheadle

Welcome back! As Christmas fast approaches and (some of us) are looking for that ‘perfect gift,’ might I suggest a great book? Today I have the pleasure of hosting talented author, Robbie Cheadle! I’m sure her books would make a wonderful stocking stuffer! Today, she will be discussing her children’s book, While The Bombs Fell. If you like what you see here, purchase and social media links can be found at the very bottom of this blog. Thank you, Robbie, for visiting me today, and thank you, dear reader, for your visit, as well. Enjoy!

While the Bombs Fell, a fictionalised biography.

What I intended when I wrote this book for children.

While the Bombs Fell is a fictionalised account of my mother’s life growing up in Bungay, East Anglia in England during World War II.

My mother, Elsie Patricia Eaton nee Hancy was only one year old when Britain declared war on Nazi Germany on 1 September 1939. This book commences in June 1942, when she was just over three and a half years old. My mother has some very clear memories of her childhood, but she cannot recall all the detail as she was too young.  Even if she had been a bit older, I doubt she would have known the name of the Dig for Victory campaign for example. She can, however, remember all the vegetable gardens her mother and their neighbours had in and around the town.  She can remember that the nearby city of Norwich was badly bombed during the war but she doesn’t recall specific details such as the  women and children evacuating the city in the early evening and passing the night in the countryside, away from the bombing. This was in May so the conditions would have been cold and miserable. It is for this reason that I say this book is a fictionalized biography. I have had to fill in the gaps in my mother’s memories with research and a bit of fiction.

I wrote While the Bombs Fell for children so that they could visit the days of this war in a fun and simple way and experience what life was like for children living in this time. My hope is that will remember the experiences and anxieties of Elsie and know that war is a terrible thing for everyone involved, not just the soldiers on the fronts.

I wrote this book along similar lines to the Little House on the Prairie series of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder which give an account of her life growing up as a small girl in the United States of America in the late 19th century. Her books provide all sorts of interesting details about life at that time and how her mother did different household tasks on different days and made butter, cheese and bread from scratch. Food was very important for the settlers and Ingall’s books include detailed accounts of killing a pig and preserving the meat as well as hunting and killing deer and a bear in the woods. One day her father discovers a honey tree and the family delight in this unusual treat. Her mother also has to pickle and preserve of fruit and vegetables to see the family through the winter.

I aimed to share similar details about my mother and her family’s lives during World War II.

Is there a plot?

I have had a few readers comment that this book does not have a plot and that they expected a story along the lines of a thriller or a murder mystery story. There have only been two such comments out of over thirty reviews, so a lot of readers understood my intention which was to provide historical insight into the lives of people who lived through the war in an entertaining way.

There is a plot, but it is a subtle one, as with other books in this genre, like the Little House books and I am David. The plot of the Little House books is to illustrate how Laura adapted to the many changes in her life and matured into a competent and well-rounded person. The plot of I am David is his journey to find his mother while explaining how his life in the camp had impacted on his ability to trust other people. It is a story of survival and hope.

While the Bombs Fell is also intended to be a story about hope. The hope of Elsie’s family that the war will end and they will return to their normal lives. The hope that no-one in their lives will be killed in the war and that Britain would prevail. The respect and gratitude of Elsie and her siblings towards the American soldiers, called the Bungay Buckaroos, who were stationed at the nearby airbase, clearly demonstrated how the British appreciated the intervention of the US and the role they played in fighting, and ultimately winning, this war.

About While the Bombs Fell

The Blurb

What was it like for children growing up in rural Suffolk during World War II?

Elsie and her family live in a small double story cottage in Bungay, Suffolk. Every night she lies awake listening anxiously for the sound of the German bomber planes. Often, they come and the air raid siren sounds signaling that the family must leave their beds and venture out to the air raid shelter in the garden.

Despite, the war raging across the English channel, daily life must continue with its highlights, such as Christmas and the traditional Boxing Day fox hunt, and its scary moments when Elsie learns the stories of Jack Frost and the ghostly and terrifying Black Shuck that haunts the coastline and countryside of East Anglia.

Includes some authentic WWII recipes.

A recent review

Five-star Amazon review:

What a lovely, poignant book! It’s the only one I’ve read that describes what life was like for very young children growing up during World War Two. There is also quite a bit of English history included, which I found quite interesting. The wartime recipes are a nice touch.

It’s told from the perspective of a girl aged 4-6 years old and focuses mainly on the daily life of kids living through horrendous times, without truly understanding what was going on in the adult world. Many of the stories told reminded me of my Dutch father-in-law’s descriptions of growing up during WWII in the Netherlands.

About Robbie:

Robbiecheadle2

Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with six published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.

I have recently branched into adult and young adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. My first supernatural book published in that name, Through the Nethergate, is now available.

I have participated in a number of anthologies:

  • Two short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Dark Visions, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre;
  • Three short stories in Death Among Us, an anthology of murder mystery stories, edited by Stephen Bentley;
  • Three short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Nightmareland, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre; and
  • Two short stories in Whispers of the Past, an anthology of paranormal stories, edited by Kaye Lynne Booth.

I also have a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.

It’s appropriate for young children as well as young readers. Fascinating read.

Purchase links

https://www.amazon.com/author/robbiecheadle

OR

https://tslbooks.uk/product/while-the-bombs-fell-robbie-cheadle-and-elsie-hancy-eaton/

Follow Robbie Cheadle at:

Blog: https://robbiecheadle.co.za

Blog: https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/blog/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15584446.Robbie_Cheadle

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/167743577260827/?source_id=362530197427007

Twitter: https://twitter.com/bakeandwrite

Follow Roberta Eaton at:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites/?modal=admin_todo_tour

Blog: https://robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com/2019/12/16/openbook-research-resources/