Anetxu “Ani” Largazabalago is a twelve-year-old girl living in Guernica, Spain, during WWII. Although Hitler’s militant coups earn the focus of the world, General Franco creates his own brand of civil war in Spain. With Ani’s father fighting in Spain’s Civil War, her mother and she are left to fend for themselves. Selling sardines door-to-door, and relying on the mercy of others, leaves Ani’s mother bitter and Ani with few friends. However, little does Ani know that her life is about to change.
When Mathias Garza’s family moves to Guernica, Ani suddenly finds herself in the middle of espionage. Even though her mother has always told her that she is insignificant, she can’t help but feel as though she is contributing something great by helping the underground resistance.
Then, Nazi planes attack her quiet, little town, and Ani realizes that no one is insignificant.
Readers who enjoyed Zusak’s The Book Thief(2005) will enjoy this novel. Ani’s life in Spain dramatically mirrors Liesel’s life in Germany during the same period. The main difference is that Death tells Liesel’s story for her while Ani speaks for herself. Although the girls’ lives are very similar, I enjoyed reading Ani’s thoughts because it gave me an insight that I felt was lacking in my connection with Liesel.
I don’t think that people fully understand the impact that WWII had on the world. We often focus on the horror of concentration camps – as we should – but there were many, many other victims to Hitler’s hate. As a result, Gonzalez presents a different perspective of the many layers that made up this war by focusing on the children who became orphans because of senseless attacks.
This novel drags in a few places, but, overall, it is a pleasant read. I’m not a big fan of historical fiction, but I found myself unable to put it down during the last few pages. Although the events in the novel are devastating, the author does a good job of communicating hope without diminishing the cruelty of events.
ARC provided by Radom House (Thank you!)
Publication Date: October 9, 2012