Author Madeline Martin has written a meticulously researched historical fiction book that is set in Poland and begins prior to the Nazi occupation of Warsaw in 1939. The book basically follows the plight of 2 girls, Zofia and Janina and we experience the horrors of Nazi occupation through their eyes, as well as what these teenage girls go through in their attempt to preserve the books and literature of Warsaw. With Janina we also experience her travails since she is Jewish and is eventually relegated to the Jewish ghetto and all the horrors that it entailed. The book is packed with historical detail including the fact that the Germans attempted to rob the Polish people of their culture and their books. They rid their libraries, bookstores and any other location that books could be found of books that were written by Polish authors and made sure that the only books that were available were written by Germans or approved books by English authors.
There is a plucky group of women who endeavored to hide books that preserved the Polish language and culture, and Janina was even able to have a Jewish library in the ghetto, right under the noses of the Nazis. This is a book that will educate the reader, as well as giving us a small glimpse of the horrors of World War 2 which were most likely happening in every occupied country during that time. The book is easy to read, the characters are well defined and the plot is based on real events. Martin is a prodigious author and has now focused her attention on historical fiction for her last three books and chooses topics that most of us are unaware of and which are fascinating stories. I must admit that as I read this book I learned so much about the situation in Warsaw and the fact that the library remained open despite all the bombing and all the destruction of the books, and the lengths that people went to in order to maintain and preserve The literary culture of Poland.