It is an honour to be on the blog tour today for ‘The Rabbit Girls’ by Anna Ellory – thank you to EdPr for the blog tour invite and ARC. Here is my review:
Berlin, 1989. As the wall between East and West falls, Miriam Winter cares for her dying father, Henryk. When he cries out for someone named Frieda – and Miriam discovers an Auschwitz tattoo hidden under his watch strap – Henryk’s secret history begins to unravel.
Searching for more clues of her father’s past, Miriam finds an inmate uniform from the Ravensbrück women’s camp concealed among her mother’s things. Within its seams are dozens of letters to Henryk written by Frieda. The letters reveal the disturbing truth about the ‘Rabbit Girls’, young women experimented on at the camp. And amid their tales of sacrifice and endurance, Miriam pieces together a love story that has been hidden away in Henryk’s heart for almost fifty years.
Inspired by these extraordinary women, Miriam strives to break through the walls she has built around herself. Because even in the darkest of times, hope can survive.
What does TWG think?
Where to begin? On subject matter alone due to a large portion of the story being set in Auschwitz, ‘The Rabbit Girls’ is a devastating read. Yet on the other hand, Anna Ellory’s novel is heartbreakingly beautiful because of the characters poignant memories.
Set in Berlin in the late 1980’s, ‘The Rabbit Girls’ follows the life of Miriam as she cares for her dying father. Unfortunately, the impending death of her father, Henryk, isn’t the only devastation Miriam has in her life. Without giving too much away, Miriam’s own personal tale is enough to break anyone and, as the story progresses, it is abundantly clear that it has nearly broken her, until a stranger steps in and gives her the strength to realise otherwise, that is.
Miriam’s father is in a bad way, clearly, he is dying. At times he is conscious and aware of Miriam there, and other times all he can do is shout out the name ‘Frieda’. But that wasn’t Miriam’s mothers name, was it? Who is Frieda, and why is Henryk so set on this person?
‘The Rabbit Girls’ is a dual timeline read as it steps back in time, courtesy of letters Miriam has found, and it’s because of those letters that we find out who ‘The Rabbit Girls’ actually were, and why they were called that (amongst other things of course, but spoilers!). I hadn’t heard that terminology before and due to it being related to Auschwitz, I just knew that it wasn’t going to be a case of something cuddly and cute like rabbits are usually associated with. It broke my heart which, is quite a selfish thing to say because I wasn’t the one enduring the heart ache, the pain, the devastation of watching people die and hearing their screams. Why do I, a mere 29 year old who wasn’t even around then, have any right to feel upset about a moment in history which didn’t directly affect me?
It’s simple; because that moment in history was one which moves people, even to this day, because of the sheer atrocities. The people who were in that camp need to have the recognition they deserve, even if they are no longer here to see it, which is why their stories are getting told both fictionally and non fictionally, at the hands of various different authors.
So, not only is this book a poignant, historical piece, it is also a romantic and insightful novel about love once loss and the deep routed power of that four lettered word. I may not have witnessed the pain directly, yet due to Anna Ellory’s beautiful story telling and her emotionally charged historical elements, I was able to feel a snippet of the heartache felt in both Auschwitz, and the world in which Miriam lived in at that time.
Miriam’s story, as I said above, is heartbreaking, harrowing, and simple quite scary. However, it is also a story which was probably extremely common during that time. The sacrifice of ‘The Rabbit Girls’ was jaw dropping and, even though my emotions regarding this book are still very fragile, it was an honour to be able to read such an incredible, incredible novel.
Anna Ellory and ‘The Rabbit Girls’ are forces to be reckoned with, as are all of the victims of Auschwitz. I was blown away by every single word in this novel, and I urge you all to take the time to be in the hands of a story which will leave you absolutely broken, yet hopeful and spellbound, all at the same time.