This was a really moving story, and really interesting to see a different side to the war than I have before.
This book is wonderful. It is simultaneously beautiful, traumatic and horrifying. About two girls, one Christian, one Jewish, whose friendship makes them as close as sisters. As WWII progresses they are thrown into horrifying situations trying to escape the Nazis.
Written from the viewpoint of Simone, the Christian girl, we follow the girls lives closely, almost feeling as though we are there in the moment with them. The author made a terrific job of the story, the language that would be used by girls of the time, and the use of excerpts of true accounts from the actual era. It all combines into a book that deserves to be read widely.
What it’s about:
Belgium, July 1939: Simone and Hava are best friends. Simone’s father is a national hero, a famous general, and Hava is a Polish Jew.
When the Nazis invade in Spring 1940, Simone and Hava flee Brussels and the rules that dictate that they shouldn’t be friends.
This book was an emotional rollercoaster. When I started reading it, I knew that there was going to be a high possibility that Hava and her family would suffer under the Nazis, but I wasn’t prepared for Simone’s single-mindedness to try and protect her friend. The attitudes of some of the Belgians and the acts of violence, were harrowing.
It’s a story that stayed with me long after I finished reading it.
★★★ 3.5 stars
Inspired by true events, ASHES is the touching tale of two women and the bond of friendship between them. Simone is the daughter of a war hero, General Joseph Lyon, whereas Hava is the eldest daughter of a Jewish family.
Despite growing up in vastly different families, the two girls were inseparable. But then in the spring of 1940, the Germans invade Belgium and the friends are separated from their families with only each other for support. Forced to flee the only life they've known, they then find themselves caught in the crossfire of the Germans' onslaught but not even war can break the bonds of friendship.
In a heartwrenching tale of hope and horror in equal measure, ASHES begins powerfully as we follow the two friends' journey, their strength and resilence, their joys and sorrows. The tale tells of the differences that once united them and how they are now torn apart by Hitler's Nazi occupation.
Well written and at times heartwrenching, ASHES is well paced and keeps the reader engaged throughout. The ending, however, was a little rushed but it still left us with a poignant memory of the horrors of war and the resilient journey of these two women.
I may have been half-hearted in my enjoyment of this story because I have read so many similar tales in recent times that I just feel a little overwhelmed and all Nazi-occupation-taled-out. Had it not been for that factor I may have enjoyed it more...though it was still a good read.
I would like to thank #ChristopherDeVinck, #NetGalley and #HarperInspire for an ARC of #Ashes in exchange for an honest review.
This review appears on my blog at https://stinathebookaholic.blogspot.com/.
Usually I love books set during the world wars but this one just wasn’t for me and I ended up DNFing it at 20% I found the writing style to be really sluggish and hard to get through. And for a book about the war I just didn’t care about the characters.
Ashes by Christopher de Vinck is historical fiction set in World War Two in Belgium, following the lives of two eighteen year old girls. It’s a mix of fact and fiction, based on the evacuation of Belgian refugees trying to outrun the Nazi invasion of 10 May 1940. Each chapter begins with either a quotation in italics either from a speech by a country’s leader such as Woodrow Wilson, Churchill or Hitler, or information about the progress of the war or extracts or memories recorded in the war journal of Major General Joseph Henri Kestens, the author’s grandfather. I found these extracts, particularly from Hitler’s speeches that illustrated the hatred and horror that Hitler inflicted on the Jewish and Polish people, the most interesting and chilling parts of the novel.
It’s narrated by Simone in short chapters that kept the action moving quite quickly as the two girls react to the Nazi invasion of their country. The friendship between Simone and Hava is poignant in the context of the war, even though I found it hard to believe that they were eighteen years old. I thought they came across as younger and the novel has the feel of a YA novel. But that was only a minor distraction for me. I also appreciated the detail about the Jewish religion and traditions. I think that gives more depth to the novel, but overall, I think the storytelling aspect was a bit too matter of fact for me, which lessened its impact.
The story of two vibrant friends,one Jewish, the other Christian caught up in the horror of World War Two. Based on true events it is an emotional and compelling read.
My thanks to Christopher de Vinck, Harper Collins and Net Galley for the ARC of ASHES.
I have read a number of WW2 books recently and this novel was incredibly emotional. Heartbreaking, frightening, stomach-churning, two very different girls, Simone and Hava, who have been raised in very different households, their friendship is almost forbidden. A stunning read
There’s quite a few WWII books around at the moment, however I would highly recommend this one.
Inspired by true events, this is an incredibly well written account about friendship against all the odds between two girls, during a time so horrific it’s impossible to imagine the atrocities experienced at that time.
Those of you who have read books about WWII don’t need reminding of what is written between these pages, how some people turned into evil human beings throughout this conflict.
However, de Vinck wants us to remember; friendship conquers all.
‘It is my ambition that Ashes will capture the hearts and imagination of those who read about Hava Daniels and her friend Simone.
‘I hope this little book will help us all remember that, among the sorrows of the world, we all can rise up from the ashes and discover, once again, what it means to be people of compassion, dignity, and love.
‘That this book could whisper words of hope in a world that seems, at the moment, so hopeless.’
He most definitely achieved this.
‘Hava, remember the daffodils in the woods when we were running from the Nazis and the planes? Remember, Hava?’ China, Japan, France all bulge with daffodils – the same daffodils. A Chinese daffodil is the same as the daffodil in my little garden. A Jewish daffodil is the same as a Christian daffodil. A Jewish girl is the same as a Christian girl. Different soil; different garden – the same girls.
It doesn’t matter about racial lines, religion, culture, background, wealth etc, whatever happens, nothing can break the bonds of true love and friendship. This follows how resilient they are and how they continue to care for and protect each other no matter how harrowing and terrifying their experiences are.
Fantastic portrayal of the time. Heartfelt, heartbreaking and emotional read.
‘We endure. We bend like the trees in an angry wind. We learn fortitude.’ Amen.
Read the book.
Thank you Harper Inspire, NetGalley and the author for this ARC provided in exchange for my unbiased review.
I read this book and then my husband read it. We both felt so differently about it. We both loved it but we had different feelings about the main characters. I think it’s a book that gives you a personal journey.
Ashes by Christopher de Vinck is a novel set in Belgium during World War II. Simone Lyon, the daughter of a major general in the Belgian army, meets Hava Daniels while volunteering with the Red Cross in 1939 and despite their different backgrounds – Hava’s family are Jews from Poland – the two become close friends. In those innocent days at the beginning of the war, the girls believe their country will remain safe and neutral, untouched by the horrors starting to sweep across the rest of Europe. Less than a year later, Brussels is under German occupation and Hava and Simone become caught up in everything they’d hoped to avoid.
I found this a moving portrayal of friendship and loyalty, although I struggled to believe that Simone and Hava were really supposed to be eighteen years old as they felt a lot younger than that to me – in fact, I thought the whole story and the way in which it was written felt more like YA fiction than adult. Not a problem, but not what I’d expected! It was interesting to read about the Holocaust from a Belgian perspective and the quotes from politicians, news articles and Nazi propaganda which begin every chapter help to put everything into historical context, but the story was not quite as harrowing as books on this topic usually are. Maybe that was due to the pacing, as a lot more time is spent on building up Hava and Simone’s friendship than on describing the events that follow the Nazi invasion. Overall, this was a worthwhile read, but just didn’t have the sort of depth I prefer in a novel.
A emotional story, very moving and life affirming. This would certainly make a great movie. Extremely captivating, I could not put this book down. A great historical fictional read.
I received a copy of the book from Netgalley to review. Thank you for the opportunity.
A fascinating must read. It chronicles the tale of 2 friends in a concentration camp during the WW2. I found it both poignant and heartbreaking.
A great read.
Ashes is a WW2 Historical Fiction novel based on true events about two friends Hava and Simone who escape Belgium as the Germans invade.
Hava and Simones friendship is just wonderful. They are best friends, like sisters and stick together for as long as possible until they get separated.
They are two courageous individuals who experience the stuff of nightmares whilst trying to escape the German invasion.
This is a great read and for me a slightly different read to the usual WW2 fiction. It was refreshing (if that’s even the right word) to read a WW2 fiction novel that doesn’t focus solely on someone’s experience of Auschwitz.
Heartwarming and heartbreaking it’s definitely one I would recommend.
This book was a very moving, touching, heart breaking and at times quite harrowing. The book is based around true events that happened in Belgium during World War II. It gives you a glimpse of how terrible war really is. Families being torn apart as some go off to fight, while other families loose their lives just because of being Jewish.
This story is about two young women who in spite of their different backgrounds are inseparable best friends. Simone Lyon is the daughter to a WWI war hero General Joseph Lyon. Where Hava Daniels is a beautiful lively Jewish girl.
When the war finally reaches Belgium Simone’s father has to leave her to help fight against the Germans. He leaves her with his medal of honor telling her that he’ll be back to claim it back off of her.
When the bombs start to fall around them Simone and Hava do what they can to find each other to make sure that they are both safe. Luckily the bombs miss both of their houses even though they live on different ends of the town.
Not long after the bombs stop falling the Germans start marching through their town. Simone and Hava know that they need to flee, but before they do Hava must find her family so they can all go together. However when they finally get to her house they have gone, so they make their way to the synagogue hoping to find them there. Yet again the synagogue is deserted. With no signs of her family Simone persuades Hava that she needs to go home and pack and then go back to Simone’s house so she can pack.
With so many other people leaving the town trying to flee from the advancing Germans they both find it hard to say in front of them. Eventually their luck runs out there is nowhere else to go. Hava gives herself up to the Germans to protect Simone. Hava wouldn’t change her mind no matter how much Simone pleased with her that it would be better to stay together.
Simone pledges that she will come and find Hava again once the war is over. As Hava is taken away Simone has no other option but to go back home and wait out the war. Will the girls ever see each other again and will Simone’s father come back safely too?
Thank you for providing me with a review copy of this book. Enjoyed reading, interesting story, would recommend....
Interwoven with facts and excerpts from speeches
So incredibly moving, but amazingly keeps a sense of humour.
The descriptions of the beauty then the devastation of Brussels, people running for their lives when the invasion begins. The kindness of strangers, the disregard and selfishness of others.
Happy 18 year old Simone, the daughter of a famous General, enjoys life with her best friend Hava a beautiful and lively Jewish girl. Simone's father has to leave her alone when the war starts and the two girls have to flee for their lives, they eventually get separated and Simone searches for her friend.
So well written, I could not stop reading it.
Starting in Belgium in 1939, this book is based on true events. Simone Lyon and Hava Daniels are best friends, and the stories about their life and adventures growing up together before 1939 are so beautiful; but the entire time you are reading, you know this story is not going to have a happy ending, because while Simone's father is a WW1 hero and goes on to do remarkable and brave deeds in WW2, Simone is Christian. Hava is Jewish.
'Ashes' tells the tale of two young girls fleeing Belgium and the invading Nazi army. Their friendship is told in such a touching way, most women remember a friendship they had while they were young, that they thought would last forever, while playing daft games and make-believe. I also really loved the ending, which made me absolutely sob my heart out.
Unfortunately, where this book lost for me, was the lack of terror the characters felt when they were running from overhead gunfire and bombs were dropping around them, or even when faced with the SS. Perhaps the girls had simply become numb in the face of fear, but this was not really shown well either. Additionally, how quickly Simone forgets her promise, and how long she takes to remember just does not wash with me. Considering the close bond between Simone and Hava, this promise should have been an obsession that she worked tirelessly at. The fact that she doesn't do this makes me feel like Simone values that relationship rather cheaply, and that makes me hate her a little.
'Ashes' is full of ordinary people with a focus on acts of kindness in the face of brutality and evil. I would happily recommend this book to teens and young adults who are looking to get into this sort of content. However, for people that have already read a lot of true stories based during this time or even non-fiction books about WW2, I would be more likely to recommend 'Night' by Elie Wiesel.
Beautifully written, another war story but told from a different perspective, I really enjoyed this book. Thanks for letting me review it.
I feel really bad rating a book on this subject with a low rating, and honestly I considered giving this book two stars, but ultimately I feel like this was the only rating I could give it.
I don't know what it was about this book but I just couldn't connect at all to the characters or the story; it almost felt like the writing was quite clinical and there were no real emotions pouring through. The events of the book should read as horrific and terrifying but the characters never seem to be portrayed in a way that shows their emotions or the impact of the events on them. Simone is the daughter of a General and can see in him the horrors of war and yet she spends the first half of the book in complete denial about what is going on, and then because she is his daughter she essentially gets free passage and food everywhere she goes.
I think part of the problem is the structure of the book; we get flashbacks throughout the events of the book but they tend to happen in line with events that are happening at the time so it's both jarring trying to figure our when we are, but also disrupts the flow of events that should horrify you. And then there are random quotes in the book from true events or world leaders which again takes you out of the flow of the writing. It almost felt like the author really skimmed the events of the book and focused almost entirely on the girls friendship; which yes came across as very deep, but it meant that the book felt almost superficial? I think it spent so much time setting up about the girl's lives in Brussels, then we get a quick few chapters on them fleeing, and then it's Simone's life afterwards; so I think it was the pacing and the structure of the book that took me out of it.
I do think this book portrayed their friendship well and you can see the love and affection they have for one another but ultimately I just felt no emotional connection to the book, which I am disappointed about.
Thank you NetGalley for allowing me to read an eARC of this book.