Book Blog Tour ~ Girl at War by Sara Nović

Girl at War tells the story of Ana, a girl we first meet at the age of ten, as her life becomes unrecognisable in the face of civil war. A previously happy, carefree existence, roaming the streets of Zagreb with her best friend Luka, and going home to her parents and baby sister, is forever changed as air raid drills become the norm. The novel follows her as she traverses this new life, eventually ending up in America, before returning to Croatia to try and find out where she belongs.

I can’t say that I would necessarily have picked this book up had it not been offered to me for review. I can find myself stuck in a bit of a reading rut sometimes, and reading about the war-torn Balkans wouldn’t necessarily appeal. But the most wonderful thing about being a book blogger is that you are often forced out of that rut, and find yourself reading the most wonderful and powerful stories. That has never been more true than with Girl at War. I positively devoured this book, reading it in one morning, reluctant to put it down before I found out what would become of Ana.

Separated into two parts, we first meet Ana as a normal young girl; her family might not be well off, but they are happy. She notices the glances between the adults when the issue of Serbs and Croatians is mentioned, but at first these things don’t seriously worry her. She’s happy to use the sandbags to play on with her classmates, and fight over who gets to ride the generator bike in the air raid shelter.

The swiftness with which Ana loses her innocence is shocking and brutal, and the climax of the first half of the novel is horrifying. We pick up with her ten years later, when she is studying in New York and trying to hide her past from those around her, and to a certain extent, from herself. Throughout the second half of the novel, as she realises that she has to return to Zagreb, we learn more about her journey, and as she comes to terms with her past, and her identity, Sara Nović takes us along for the ride.

I wrote recently about learning through fiction, and that is the case here. While the genocide in the Balkans happened within my lifetime, I know very little about it. I’m the same age as Ana, and while she’s a fictional character; I have no doubt that her story is one that is very much rooted in truth. In 1991, as nine-year-old girls, mine and Ana’s stories could not have been more different.

Books like Girl at War, beautifully written and with a historical story that is still very much within living memory, are so important, and I’m so very glad that I have had the opportunity to read it. A wonderful debut from an author whose future work I will most certainly be seeking out.

Girl at War by Sara Nović
First published: May 2015
ISBN: 9780812996340
Little Brown UK
Review copy provided by publisher

Blog Every Day in May ~ An Update

I very nearly let today pass without a post; it’s currently 10.20pm, and very nearly time for me to go bed. My reasoning behind this was that I’ve already missed two days, so it doesn’t really matter if I miss a third, because I’ve already failed (if I’m going to look at it in terms of success and failure).

But then I decided to write something, and I decided it was going to be one of those rambling posts that might not be all that interesting to read, but is very enjoyable to write. I’ve just written something that absolutely wasn’t a stream of consciousness; it was structured and thought about, and though that’s enjoyable, this will be more so!

I’m trying not to consider BEDM a failure because I’ve missed a couple of days. I have done this in the past; I’ve got so stressed out about absolutely having to post every day that it has taken all of the fun out of the process! So when I realised last week that I wasn’t going to have the time to schedule posts for Saturday and Sunday, I tried to adopt a ‘que sera sera’ attitude to it – it really doesn’t matter all that much.

BEDM has already been a success for me, because it has given me fresh inspiration for my blog, and I have found a new blogging friend! Liz from Distract Me Now Please came along and asked if I wanted to collaborate on something for the ‘collaborate’ prompt of BEDM, and we’re working on something now! It’s probably going to be a bit later than the prompt suggests, but it’s going to happen and I’m excited about it!

I haven’t had a chance to read many blog posts at all in the last couple of weeks; as much as I love reading all the BEDM posts, I just haven’t had the time. I am hoping to have some more time next week, after another working weekend away, when I can spend some time catching up and seeing what I’ve missed.

Though, I have to say, even if I do have the chance to read the blogs, I almost definitely won’t get a chance to comment on them. I try really hard to comment on the blog posts that I love, but ultimately I just find commenting a really time consuming activity! I am going to try harder, because I know how gratifying it is to see a new comment notification. But when I inevitably fail, I’m going to try and at least say hi to the blogger on Twitter. This might be my new method for sharing some blog love!

So in short, there will be plenty more BEDM action on this here blog, but if it’s not every single day, don’t judge me. I’m trying!

Mondaying

Right now, I am mostly…

Working : Or at least, I was for seven days straight last week, meaning I am currently enjoying two days off at the start of this week! I was at one of the exhibitions that we organise all weekend, in Manchester. It’s a hard weekend, and as you can see from the photo above, I walked rather a lot (probably around 25 miles over the four days). But it’s always really great four days. and I just loved it!

Buying : I bought some new pyjamas for my working weekend, because that kind of thing just feels like the perfect opportunity, doesn’t it? Then I went out today and bought a skirt, and a denim jacket. I’ve been after a denim jacket for ages, and I went into Gap and saw one in the sale for £20. I have had a high street voucher in my purse for over a year, and when I realised that I could use it in Gap, I finally spent some of it! It’s a beaut too!

Failing : As you may have noticed (or not, because you probably don’t care as much as I do), I missed two days of BEDM at the weekend. It was always going to be a toughie to try and get posts written in advance for this particular weekend, but I when I signed up for BEDM, I thought I could make it work. I couldn’t, and I’m disappointed, but ultimately I don’t mind. I’m going to keep on keeping on, and we’ll see how it turns out by the end of the month! 

Reading : I’m so disappointed by how little reading I’ve been doing lately. I don’t really have any excuses; I have been working a lot, but it has always irritated me when people say they don’t have time for reading. What that means is that they prioritise other things over reading. Which, of course, is fine – that’s their prerogative – but I have never been one of those people, and it annoys me that I seem to be becoming one.

Celebrating : I made a comment last week at work that it was my half birthday, and that I’d read a Timehop tweet from a couple of years ago moaning that nobody had acknowledged it (tongue in cheek, of course!). Chris then proceeded to ‘make’ me a ‘card’, which basically consisted of him writing a card and then ripping it in half, to make a half card for a half birthday. (Bev has become my work nickname, by the way!)

Marvelling : Today I was scrolling through Timehop, and I noticed this! Twice on this day in the past I have tweeted about having a cold (and I currently have a sore throat and a very croaky voice), and twice on this day in the past I have tweeted about reading back on my past tweets. Coincidences like this are amazing!

Friday Letters

Is Friday Letters still a thing? It seems as though Ashley from The Sweet Season, who hosted it, no longer takes part, but I think I’m going to start mine again. It was always a nice post to finish the week with!

Dear Manchester, I am in you! I wish I got to see more of you, but a working weekend means that is just not possible. Someday I will be back to have a proper wander around.

Dear Wittertainment, I love your thing. Please make more things.

Dear Sunday, I can’t wait for you to get here. See you very soon!

Dear Camber Sands, I’ll be with you soon. Not soon enough, but soon!

Dear excess weight, your time is numbered. When I get back from Manchester, we’ll be starting our long goodbye.

Dear BEDM, aren’t we doing well? Day fifteen, and all being well, I’ve managed all fifteen! Here’s to the next sixteen!

Dear Abbie, Happy Birthday! How my tiny baby niece got to be 25 will forever flummox me, but that’s how time works, I guess!

Blue Plaque Quest #2

Way back when, I set out on a quest to photograph as many blue plaques as I could manage. I did a blog post with the two that I found on one trip to London (black plaques actually, but still official English Heritage plaques), and then I stopped. I carried on noticing them wherever I went, but I stopped photographing them and posting about them. The main reason for this is that I don’t have a decent enough camera to be able photograph them; they are up high, and require a better zoom that most of my cameras have!

But when I went into London last weekend, Hannah was kind enough to lend me her camera, and I managed to find some plaques. The truth is that none of these are official English Heritage plaques, but I decided that doesn’t matter – I want to share them with you anyway, and try and make this into a regular feature!

‘Ziggy Stardust’ ~ Musician ~ 23 Heddon Street

This is definitely not an official English Heritage one, being as it commemorates a famous alter-ego! It marks the location of the cover photograph of the album Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

Joseph Haydn ~ Composer ~ 18 Great Poulteney Street

John Stephen ~ Founder of Carnaby Street ~ Carnaby Street

John Snow ~ Epidemiologist ~ 54 Frith Street

Charles Bridgeman ~ Landscape Gardener ~ 54 Broadwick Street *Official English Heritage*

Antonion Canal (Canaletto) ~ Venetian Painter ~ 41 Beak Street *Official English Heritage*

Quite a nice little selection, I think you’ll agree! I can’t wait to find some more now.

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