The Sisters of the Winter Wood – Rena Rossner
— DISCLAIMER: I received a eARC of this novel via NetGalley – thank you to both Netgalley and Little, Brown Book Group for the opportunity! All opinions expressed in this review are my own. —
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
PUBLICATION DATE: 27/09/2018
SUMMARY: Liba and Laya, two sisters growing up Jewish in eastern Europe, live outside of town in the woods with their parents. However, their parents are called away on urgent business, leaving the two sisters to fend for themselves. They soon find out that there is more to stories and their heritage than they had believed and they have to fight for what they believe.
OPINIONS: I really enjoyed this book. Although the story dragged at times, it was very well written (and I love me some beautiful prose), and much deeper than I had expected – and can I also mention how beautiful it is?! The tale revolves around the two sisters coming to terms with who they are and how their world works. While this is a fantasy novel, it does address many of the social issues prevailing throughout Europe for centuries. Not only does it feed off the idea of intrusive foreigners, but it looks at the strained relationships between Jews and Christians, and how these might have evolved or been influenced, as well as the interactions between different societies. Liba and Laya’s parents had their backgrounds in very different societies, and their backstory is presented almost as a Romeo-and-Juliet type story, it is very interesting to see what happens after the couple has fallen in love, and the consequences that come with it. Having come from incompatible backgrounds, they have made their lives work for them, but over the course of the story, they are confronted with the places they came from, and have to find a solution for the differences. I think these issues of difference were handled really well, and I hope that other readers will also be able to take these ideas away with them.
This is one of the stories of which I believe that they are important to be told. While this year has been great at producing diverse reads (for example, the fabulous short story collection All Out or the badass black heroine of Dread Nation), this seems to hit close to home. Perhaps this is because I grew up learning history from German textbooks, where the Holocaust is central, it seems that this is a topic I’ve thought about for most of my life. But at the same time, relationships between different social or religious groups are also a very current topic. I do hope that this book will be able to inspire more tolerance in young minds.