• NZ Booklovers

Daughters of War by Dinah Jefferies

Daughters of War is an exciting new novel by British author Dinah Jefferies. Set in 1944 in the picturesque valley of the Dordogne in France, it tells the story of the three English-French Baudin sisters: the dedicated nurse Hélène, the daring café owner Élise, and the optimistic gardener Florence.

Having tragically lost their father, and now distant from their mother, the sisters aim to survive the latter years of World War II. When a young German man called Anton, a German soldier named Tomas, and a SOE (Special Operations Executive) agent Jack, cross paths with the sisters on separate occasions, life changes dramatically.

Written in third-person omniscient point of view, Jefferies’ depictions of wartime life and violence are intimate, honest, and highly descriptive. The ostensibly trivial details of daily life reveal the extent to which normalcy was yearned. Chicory coffee and goat’s milk are common substitutes for beverages and baked goods, while spices and other basic goods are rationed meticulously and even fearfully.

More significantly, Daughters of War reveals how values and relationships are inevitably tested during times of war. When Élise goes to assist the Resistance, known as the Maquis, her sisters fear for her safety. While it seems that nobody can be trusted, individuals like Florence strive to perceive the good in people and the beauty in nature.

Jefferies captivatingly interweaves historical research with storytelling. She illuminates the perilous events and groups responsible for inflicting much damage in France. In addition to the well-known SOE, the novel features the historical Brigade Nord-Africaine (BNA), the German Brehmer Division, and the Franc Tireurs et Partisans (FTP). Jefferies also provides a helpful note with resources that helped her to understand and depict wartime France.

Daughters of War is an emotionally gripping book that readers of historical fiction and war novels will surely enjoy. This novel will be the first in a proposed trilogy on the lives of the Baudin sisters—three ordinary young women who realise that they do have a special part to play in extraordinary and trying times.

Reviewer: Azariah Alfante

Publisher: HarperCollins