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Ashes: A heart-wrenching tale of friendship, war and courage.

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A deeply touching novel about two young women whose differences, which once united them, will tear them apart forever, during Hitler’s Nazi occupation of Belgium and France. Based on true events. For fans of All The Light We Cannot See and Tattooist of Auschwitz. Belgium, July 1939: Simone Lyon is the daughter of a Belgium national hero, the famous General Joseph Lyon. Her A deeply touching novel about two young women whose differences, which once united them, will tear them apart forever, during Hitler’s Nazi occupation of Belgium and France. Based on true events. For fans of All The Light We Cannot See and Tattooist of Auschwitz. Belgium, July 1939: Simone Lyon is the daughter of a Belgium national hero, the famous General Joseph Lyon. Her best friend Hava Daniels, is the eldest daughter of a devout Jewish family. Despite growing up in different worlds, they are inseparable. But when, in the spring of 1940, Nazi planes and tanks begin bombing Brussels, their resilience and strength are tested. Hava and Simone find themselves caught in the advancing onslaught and are forced to flee. In an emotionally-charged race for survival, even the most harrowing horrors cannot break their bonds of love and friendship. The two teenage girls, will see their innocence fall, against the ugly backdrop of a war dictating that theirs was a friendship that should never have been.


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A deeply touching novel about two young women whose differences, which once united them, will tear them apart forever, during Hitler’s Nazi occupation of Belgium and France. Based on true events. For fans of All The Light We Cannot See and Tattooist of Auschwitz. Belgium, July 1939: Simone Lyon is the daughter of a Belgium national hero, the famous General Joseph Lyon. Her A deeply touching novel about two young women whose differences, which once united them, will tear them apart forever, during Hitler’s Nazi occupation of Belgium and France. Based on true events. For fans of All The Light We Cannot See and Tattooist of Auschwitz. Belgium, July 1939: Simone Lyon is the daughter of a Belgium national hero, the famous General Joseph Lyon. Her best friend Hava Daniels, is the eldest daughter of a devout Jewish family. Despite growing up in different worlds, they are inseparable. But when, in the spring of 1940, Nazi planes and tanks begin bombing Brussels, their resilience and strength are tested. Hava and Simone find themselves caught in the advancing onslaught and are forced to flee. In an emotionally-charged race for survival, even the most harrowing horrors cannot break their bonds of love and friendship. The two teenage girls, will see their innocence fall, against the ugly backdrop of a war dictating that theirs was a friendship that should never have been.

30 review for Ashes: A heart-wrenching tale of friendship, war and courage.

  1. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    Set during World War II, ‘Ashes’ tells the story of Belgian, Simone Lyon, (daughter of a World War I hero, General Joseph Lyon), and her Polish friend Hava Daniels, daughter of a devout Jewish family. Simone is of the Catholic Faith, but despite their religious differences, they are completely inseparable. The girls, both 18 years of age, have rather innocent perceptions of life, they dream of meeting Clark Gable after reading Gone with the Wind, draw lines on the backs of their legs to make it a Set during World War II, ‘Ashes’ tells the story of Belgian, Simone Lyon, (daughter of a World War I hero, General Joseph Lyon), and her Polish friend Hava Daniels, daughter of a devout Jewish family. Simone is of the Catholic Faith, but despite their religious differences, they are completely inseparable. The girls, both 18 years of age, have rather innocent perceptions of life, they dream of meeting Clark Gable after reading Gone with the Wind, draw lines on the backs of their legs to make it appear that they’re wearing stockings, take picnics to the park - they enjoy life, but with war very much on the horizon, this will bring their rather privileged lifestyle, which until now, has been completely unaffected by the cruelties of life, very much to an end. When France and Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939, Belgium remained strictly neutral while mobilising its reserves. Simone listened to radio reports of the Germans invading other countries, but to her it all seemed so far away, she preferred to ignore the growing threat, and besides, Belgium was a neutral country so the Germans wouldn’t be bothering them! How wrong she was - without warning, the Germans invaded Belgium on the 10th May 1940, and Simone and Hava found themselves fleeing without their families, from the death and utter devastation that had been wrought on their beloved city by the invading enemy. It’s easy to feel the terror of the people as they try to flee the bombs, the invading army, the horror, the chaos - but where do they flee to? With other countries being invaded, where do they go? Their long and eventful journey, trying to keep one step ahead of the Germans, is told from Simone’s perspective, and it’s a journey fraught with danger, illustrating as it does, how war can bring out the very best in people, but also the very worst, with acts of unimaginable cruelty in pursuit of world power. Their journey together comes to end when they are separated in a most brutal and frightening way, but Simone vows that she will find her friend when all this madness is over. There were parts of this novel that I really enjoyed - felt emotionally invested in, but then other parts felt rushed and impersonal, particularly towards the end - things happened without explanation, in an effort (it seems) to bring about a swift conclusion, but it did rather spoil my overall enjoyment of it, and that is reflected in my rating. * Thank you to Netgalley and Harper Inspire, Harper Collins for my ARC, for which I have given an honest unbiased review in exchange *

  2. 5 out of 5

    Louise Wilson

    Belgium, July 1939: Simone Lyon is the daughter of a Belgian national hero, General Joseph Lyon. Her best friend Hava Daniels, is the eldest daughter of a devout Jewish family. Despite growing up in different worlds, they are inseparable. In the spring of 1940, Nazi planes and tanks begin bombing Brussels, their resilience and strength are tested. Hava and Simone find themselves caught in the advancing onslaught and are forced to flee. This is a touching and moving story about two women whose di Belgium, July 1939: Simone Lyon is the daughter of a Belgian national hero, General Joseph Lyon. Her best friend Hava Daniels, is the eldest daughter of a devout Jewish family. Despite growing up in different worlds, they are inseparable. In the spring of 1940, Nazi planes and tanks begin bombing Brussels, their resilience and strength are tested. Hava and Simone find themselves caught in the advancing onslaught and are forced to flee. This is a touching and moving story about two women whose differences that once united them, will now be torn apart by Hitler's Nazi occupation of France and Belgium. Both girls have strong bonds with their fathers. The story flows along at a decent pace through some horrific subject matter. The girls try to escape the Nazi but it all doesn't quite go to plan. I loved the authors writing style. The characters and plotline were complex. This is an emotional read. My only criticism is that I felt the ending was a bit rushed. I would like to thank NetGalley, HarperInspire (HarperCollins Publishers UK) and the author Christopher de Vinck for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Simone is the daughter of Major General Joseph Lyon a war hero much respected. Her best friend is Hava who is Jewish. When the war breaks out and the Germans invade Belgium, the friends find themselves separated from their families, with only each other for support. When Hana is taken away for being a Jew, Simone declares that she will find her after the war. This story had me on an emotional rollercoaster, laughing one minute and crying the next. The beautiful friendship between the girls will Simone is the daughter of Major General Joseph Lyon a war hero much respected. Her best friend is Hava who is Jewish. When the war breaks out and the Germans invade Belgium, the friends find themselves separated from their families, with only each other for support. When Hana is taken away for being a Jew, Simone declares that she will find her after the war. This story had me on an emotional rollercoaster, laughing one minute and crying the next. The beautiful friendship between the girls will capture you’re heart and keep you gripped to see what happened to Hana. This will stay in my thoughts long after reading it. Every time I see a daffodil I will think about this book!! Thank you to Netgalley for my copy in exchange for a review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Miriam Smith (A Mother’s Musings)

    “Ashes” is the heartwarming tale based on true events by author Christopher De Vinck. Set in Belgium 1939, eighteen year old Simone Lyon is the Catholic daughter of a Belgium national hero, General Joseph Lyon. Her best friend Hava Daniels, is the daughter of a devout Jewish family. Despite growing up in different worlds, they are inseparable. Spring 1940 brings Nazi planes and tanks bombing Brussels where they live and their resilience and strength are tested. Hava and Simone find themselves ca “Ashes” is the heartwarming tale based on true events by author Christopher De Vinck. Set in Belgium 1939, eighteen year old Simone Lyon is the Catholic daughter of a Belgium national hero, General Joseph Lyon. Her best friend Hava Daniels, is the daughter of a devout Jewish family. Despite growing up in different worlds, they are inseparable. Spring 1940 brings Nazi planes and tanks bombing Brussels where they live and their resilience and strength are tested. Hava and Simone find themselves caught in the advancing onslaught and are forced to flee but even the most harrowing horrors cannot break the bonds of love and friendship of a relationship that never should have been. The story starts quite powerfully and straight away the reader is subjected to the horror of war. We are then taken back to how Simone and Hava became friends and as the Germans invade Belgium shortly after, we follow their resilience and perseverance to protect each other and stay alive. The girls really did capture my heart and their innocence was a joy to read. To say the book wasn’t riveting would be doing the story (and the authors writing) a disservice because just the nature of the story based on true events deserves high praise. However it was slow at times and the ending seemed a bit rushed. I did find the final closing chapter very emotional when we learned what finally happened and I admit to feeling quite sad when reading. Simone’s and Hava’s friendship was remarkably poignant and the relationship between them was truly incredible and lovely to read. Highlighting the horrors of the Nazi invasion of a country thought to be neutral and the perils of being a Jew made this book a harrowing but heartwarming read. The author hopes to remind readers what it if feels like to be filled with compassion, dignity and love and I believe he achieved this. The historical facts/quotations at the start of each chapter were a nice addition and often were very informative. If you enjoy character based stories with a backdrop of war then you’ll find this book is for you and apart from being a tad slow at times, I did enjoy and would read more by this author again. 4 stars

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    Ashes is a raw and moving story which illustrates just how powerful the bond of friendship between two people can be, as well as the adversity that can be overcome through having those we love close to us and despite the troubling times in which it’s set, de Vinck still infuses the tale with strength and dreams of one day again living in freedom once again. It's a heart-wrenching tale of hope, survival and friendship during World War Two by an award-winning essayist and is inspired by the author Ashes is a raw and moving story which illustrates just how powerful the bond of friendship between two people can be, as well as the adversity that can be overcome through having those we love close to us and despite the troubling times in which it’s set, de Vinck still infuses the tale with strength and dreams of one day again living in freedom once again. It's a heart-wrenching tale of hope, survival and friendship during World War Two by an award-winning essayist and is inspired by the author’s true and touching family history. It's July 1939 in Belgium, a mere few months before the start of the war, and Simone Lyon, the daughter of prominent and well regarded Major General Joseph Lyon, is inseparable from her close friend Hava Daniels, who hails from a devout Jewish family. When the war breaks out and the Germans begin their invasion of Belgium, both Simone and Hava devastatingly find themselves separated from their families and must rely on each other for support. When the Nazis start rounding up Jews, Hava is one of the unlucky ones and is taken away with very little idea of what awaits her. Simone vows to find her once the war is over. But will they ever be reunited? Historical fiction set against the harsh and harrowing backdrop of WWII has really taken over the genre of late, however, what particularly drew me to Ashes was the fact that it revolves around a seemingly unbreakable friendship and platonic love rather than a relationship as in most of the others stories. It still tugs at the heartstrings just as much and I found myself moved almost to tears on some occasions and laughing out loud on others. You are taken on an emotional rollercoaster of ups and downs, peaks and troughs as you follow the meanderings and trials and tribulations they come face to face with. The two girls’ lives are brought vividly to life and you can't help but have your heart warmed by their enduring friendship. Set out in short chapters there are little sound bites, or epigraphs, from history at the beginning of each one which immerses you into the compassionate tale right from the start. The descriptions of incidents where they had to escape and evade the Nazi regime were terrifying even for me as merely a reader. It's clear extensive research has informed this narrative and the author has captured the zeitgeist of the time perfectly. Many thanks to Harper Inspire for an ARC.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Louise Wilson

    Belgium, July 1939: Simone Lyon is the daughter of a Belgian national hero, the famous General Joseph Lyon. Her best friend Hava Daniels, is the eldest daughter of a devout Jewish family. Despite growing up in different worlds, they are inseparable. In the spring of 1940, Nazi planes and tanks begin bombing Brussels, their resilience and strength are tested. Hava and Simone find themselves caught in the advancing onslaught and are forced to flee. This is a touching and moving story about two wom Belgium, July 1939: Simone Lyon is the daughter of a Belgian national hero, the famous General Joseph Lyon. Her best friend Hava Daniels, is the eldest daughter of a devout Jewish family. Despite growing up in different worlds, they are inseparable. In the spring of 1940, Nazi planes and tanks begin bombing Brussels, their resilience and strength are tested. Hava and Simone find themselves caught in the advancing onslaught and are forced to flee. This is a touching and moving story about two women whose differences that once united them, will now be torn apart by Hitler's Nazi occupation. Of France and Belgium. Both women have strong bonds with their fathers. The story flows along at a decent pace through some horrific subject matter. The girls try to escape the Nazi but it all doesn't quite go to plan. I loved the authors writing style. The characters and plotline were complex. This is an emotional read. My only criticism is that I felt the ending was a bit rushed. I would like to thank NetGalley, HarperInspire (HarperCollins Publishers UK) and the author Christopher de Vinck for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Hall

    Ashes pays tribute to a friendship irrevocably altered by the horror of World War Two and the courage of two young women, one a gentile and the other a Jew, whose bond endured. The story is inspired by the experiences of the author’s family in Belgium and is narrated in the first person by eighteen-year-old Simone Lyon, daughter of a renowned WWI Belgian national hero. When the story opens in July 1939 Simone and her father, General Joseph Lyon, are living peacefully in Brussels, a country known Ashes pays tribute to a friendship irrevocably altered by the horror of World War Two and the courage of two young women, one a gentile and the other a Jew, whose bond endured. The story is inspired by the experiences of the author’s family in Belgium and is narrated in the first person by eighteen-year-old Simone Lyon, daughter of a renowned WWI Belgian national hero. When the story opens in July 1939 Simone and her father, General Joseph Lyon, are living peacefully in Brussels, a country known for its neutrality. When she meets playful Jewish teenager, Hava Daniels, and strikes up an instant rapport she is embraced by Hava’s generous family and never stops to consider their differences or the Jewish faith of the devout clan. Simone is wrapped up in thoughts of books and Hollywood despite her father urging her take more interest in the wider world with her only knowledge of war informed by reading Gone with the Wind. So when things change rapidly in the spring of 1940 both young women and their country are frighteningly unprepared.. As German troops advance on the city of Brussels Simone and Hava are separated from their respective families and forced to flee their country together in hope of a passage to safety. When Hava’s religion sees the firm friends cruelly torn apart in Dunkirk Simone vows never to forget her and determines they will be reunited. Once troops descend into Brussels the pace of the story accelerates and covers a lengthy period, ultimately going on to follow Simone and her eventual return to a free Belgium following four years under Nazi rule. The book covers the entirety of WWII and by focusing on the girls friendship it skims the surface of the enormity of the devastating changes going on in the world and fails to make apparent the monumental horror of day-to-day life. Big events such as the Battle of Dunkirk and the years which Belgium spent under Nazi rule deserve greater recognition than a bit part in a story and I found much of their journey a little too superficial. The book primarily concentrates on Belgium’s involvement in the war and knowing little about the country’s involvement I enjoyed this focus and learned a great deal. The writing is straightforward and pretty sterile and for me it was lacking in emotional resonance. I never felt actively involved in the story and failed to warm to, or invest in, either Simone or Hava. Both girls felt extremely immature and I found it hard to believe that given Simone’s fathers military career and Hava’s faith that they would never have considered the possibility of a war and been so unprepared for it. I struggled to envisage either of them doing anything but panicking and given they were both a little dimensionless I never had the belief required for what should have be a far more heart-wrenching story. I also had an issue with Simone using the clout of her father’s Croix de Guerre to ease her journey to and ensure her safety when so many ordinary citizens were struggling without this privilege. Whilst I found Ashes a competent story of friendship, courage and resilience in treacherous times I felt distanced from the horrors on the page largely due to the clinical writing. I had mixed feelings about the epigraphs at the start of each chapter and whilst some brought home the horror of an ongoing war and sent a shiver down my spine (quotes from politicians etc) many didn’t seem particularly relevant to the events that followed or hit home. The abrupt ending also left me with reservations and I doubt that Simone and Hava’s story will stick in my mind over and above so many more powerful novels highlighting the plight of the Jews in World War Two.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Aoife

    I received this book from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Simone Lyon is the daughter of a well-respected general and feels confident as German forces move closer to Belgium that war will never touch her home. However, it soon does and Simone is forced to flee Brussels with her best friend Hava, who is Jewish and therefore in terrible danger if enemy soldiers find them. This book is well-written and seems well-researched. You can tell that the author really wanted to I received this book from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Simone Lyon is the daughter of a well-respected general and feels confident as German forces move closer to Belgium that war will never touch her home. However, it soon does and Simone is forced to flee Brussels with her best friend Hava, who is Jewish and therefore in terrible danger if enemy soldiers find them. This book is well-written and seems well-researched. You can tell that the author really wanted to pay tribute to those who had fought, died and survived the war in how he wrote his story, and the story he really wanted to tell to readers. The friendship between the girls was really wonderful, and I never doubted the love and camaraderie they felt for each other. They were true sisters of the heart. Unfortunately though, the story felt really lack-luster to me. I think it almost felt overdone in a way and everything the writer wanted us to feel and understand from the story was written plainly on the page and a lot of nuance was lost. There's absolutely nothing really wrong with the story - it just failed to light something inside of me that as a reader, I want to feel when reading a story. The start - particularly Simone's life in Brussels before the German invasion and the start of her friendship with Hava - was really dragged out, and then their fleeing from the Germans seemed to all be a blur. The characters felt slightly wooden as well and lacked real personality that made them feel real - Simone was very much a Mary-Sue character and everything seemed to come very easily to her, while Hava was a manic pixie dream girl of some sort. The only real thing I felt from the girls was their teenage obsession with Hollywood actors and singers. I just felt a bit bored of this book and I feel like there are ways the story may have been better. Just not one for me I think!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Aly Warren

    Ever read a book where you just have to give yourself a moment when you finish? This is one of those books. I've given 5 stars but wish I could give more. Follows a friendship between two 18 year old girls Simone and Hava, before and during the 2nd world war. The war is just beginning when they try to escape. Surrounded by German planes causing destruction. People being shot down around them. They still stick together and help each other to stay strong. That's until tragedy strikes... It gave a ve Ever read a book where you just have to give yourself a moment when you finish? This is one of those books. I've given 5 stars but wish I could give more. Follows a friendship between two 18 year old girls Simone and Hava, before and during the 2nd world war. The war is just beginning when they try to escape. Surrounded by German planes causing destruction. People being shot down around them. They still stick together and help each other to stay strong. That's until tragedy strikes... It gave a very vivid picture of what it would of been like back during the war. It pulls you in from the get go. I found i was trying to read it as fast as I could, trying to find out what happens next. Kept me on the edge of my seat, brilliantly written. This is a 100% a must read. Incredibly heartbreaking

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kira

    I'm not a huge reader of historical fiction, but I do tend to be drawn towards world war two era stories. Having read the Tattooist of Auschwitz I kind of expected this to be a rip off, of that. Bad of me, I know. Although I was really pleasantly surprised, going into this completely blind that this book is written from a Belgian perspective during the war. I'd never read a book about the war based on real events that was set from a Belgian perspective and I really enjoyed that this was somethin I'm not a huge reader of historical fiction, but I do tend to be drawn towards world war two era stories. Having read the Tattooist of Auschwitz I kind of expected this to be a rip off, of that. Bad of me, I know. Although I was really pleasantly surprised, going into this completely blind that this book is written from a Belgian perspective during the war. I'd never read a book about the war based on real events that was set from a Belgian perspective and I really enjoyed that this was something new and unique for me. This book was equal parts enjoyable and heartbreaking, I absolutely adored the characters of Simone and Hava and the ending was incredibly bittersweet for these characters. I really liked the writing style of Christopher de Vinck, having never heard of this author before reading this book. I definitely think this book is deserving of the four star rating, and I'd definitely recommend it for fans of historical fiction or world war two, holocaust era fiction.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jeanniehay64

    All wars leave devastation and heartbreak and this novel tells the story of Simone and her friend Hava who live in Belgium during World War 2. Simone is the daughter of a war hero from WW1 and Hava is the daughter of a Jewish family. Although their backgrounds are poles apart their friendship is strong. Most Belgium citizens believe they will be safe from the terrors of war bit that soon changes with the imminent arrival of the German army. Simone’s father father is called away leaving her afrai All wars leave devastation and heartbreak and this novel tells the story of Simone and her friend Hava who live in Belgium during World War 2. Simone is the daughter of a war hero from WW1 and Hava is the daughter of a Jewish family. Although their backgrounds are poles apart their friendship is strong. Most Belgium citizens believe they will be safe from the terrors of war bit that soon changes with the imminent arrival of the German army. Simone’s father father is called away leaving her afraid and alone in her home. Hava reaches out the hand of friendship at the expense of remaining with her own family who seem to have disappeared. The two girls set off on a quest to escape the invasion which sees them experience many Terrifying moments. I loved the authors quotes which enriched the storyline and gave a real insight into the events surround WW2. This harrowing story highlighted the terrors of war. All people In war suffer and this was explored thoughtfully. I grew very attached to the two main characters and was rooting for their friendship and love to prevail. This book made me grateful for the sacrifices our forefathers gave so that we could experience freedom. We must learn from the evil of the past and never forget how others suffered needlessly. Read Simone and Hava’s story and be reminded that even in the most horrific times dignity, love and friendship can prevail.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Strawberry

    Oh my goodness, I’m in tears after reading this book, it’s such a beautiful and touching novel with both happy and sad moments. Eighteen year old Simone Lyon and her friend Hava Daniels quickly become best friends when they meet as volunteers for the Red Cross. The two become like sisters, and it isn’t long before Simone, who lives with her father, feels a part of Hava’s family too. When war begins and Simone’s father has to leave, and Hava becomes seperated from her family, the two girls quickl Oh my goodness, I’m in tears after reading this book, it’s such a beautiful and touching novel with both happy and sad moments. Eighteen year old Simone Lyon and her friend Hava Daniels quickly become best friends when they meet as volunteers for the Red Cross. The two become like sisters, and it isn’t long before Simone, who lives with her father, feels a part of Hava’s family too. When war begins and Simone’s father has to leave, and Hava becomes seperated from her family, the two girls quickly find themselves rushing to escape Belgium and the invading Nazi forces. But wherever they run, the Nazi’s soon follow. This feels like such an amazing novel and I’m surprised with how quickly I became engrossed in the story. Mostly set in Brussels, the story begins with a short prologue before starting before the war, when Simone and Hava first meet. Hava’s family is Polish and Jewish and despite knowing that this book would eventualy take a sad turn as the war came to Belgium, I really loved these early chapters showing the developing story around the two girls and how beautiful and strong their friendship is. The chapters are very short but I love the way this first part of the book builds up this bond of friendship and it made me really love Hava’s character as she’s a bit eccentric and silly at times (reminding me a bit of myself as a teenager!). The story is told from Simone’s point of view and each chapter is, as I said quite short, with the whole pace of the novel being fast. I like this fast pace as it keeps the whole tale moving along quickly and kept me wanting to turn the pages. Each chapter begins with an excerpt at the top in italics, either from a real speech by a country’s leader (such as Churchill or Hitler), a quote by someone else involved in the war or a short piece of information about what was happening during the war. These short extracts are so well placed, often giving insight into what happens in the next chapter, or making you think about what would happen to some of the characters. Many of the excerpts also explain things I didn’t know about, things that were happening in the war at the time but that to this day I’d never heard of. Not all the extracts are easy to read though and some of the quotes especially from Hitler’s speeches did make me for uncomfortable reading although I’m still glad they were included. For example there are some quotes about Polish people (not just Jews) which show the extent of hatred there was for them as well as a few other different kinds of people. This felt sad and uncomfortable for me personally as I have Polish family, but I do like the fact it’s included as it’s important to know twhat truly happened. In the story, the journey the girls take is a long one and is filled with lots of different moments, some happy and others sad. I like how this book shows the way that some people chose to act during the war and how not all of them were helpful although there are acts of great kindness too. The ending is one I did like although I was left with mixed emotions at the end. In fact I was very tearful, especially after I read something about a name of a certain character. The story is filled with so much hope and sadness all at the same time. There are good moments mixed with very sad ones and it does give you a good insight into how life was for people going through the war, but that ending is a mixture of something sad and yet also uplifting. I’d really recommend everyone to read this novel, it’s so easy to get into and I think it would make for great reading for teenagers as well as adults due the fast pace and young characters. Whether you usually enjoy reading historical fiction about the Second World War or not, this book is not only a powerful story, but it also teaches you so much about what was happening at the time, and gives you an insight into what was happening in Belgium too. This is such a poignant and beautiful novel and at the same time quite educational without feeling like it, it’s also inspired by true events which the author has a close connection with, making it all the more interesting to read. It’s such a brilliant book and it’s one I hope everyone reads! -Thanks to Harper Inspire for a free pre-release copy for review.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ria

    I don't even know where to start with this novel, it was amazing and one of my fave reads of this year. It tells the story of Hava Daniels and Simone Lyon, a Jew and the daughter of a Belgian national war hero. Their friendship at this time should never have been according to society's dictates and prejudices. During the occupation of Belgium in 1940 they are both forced to flee together to try and survive. This was an incredibly harrowing account of their attempt to escape the atrocities of war and I don't even know where to start with this novel, it was amazing and one of my fave reads of this year. It tells the story of Hava Daniels and Simone Lyon, a Jew and the daughter of a Belgian national war hero. Their friendship at this time should never have been according to society's dictates and prejudices. During the occupation of Belgium in 1940 they are both forced to flee together to try and survive. This was an incredibly harrowing account of their attempt to escape the atrocities of war and the stigma attached to being Jewish. Loosely based on actual true events of the author's family I found it very moving and nearly reduced me to tears as this subject matter is worse than any horror novel as these terrible things did happen during wartime. This for me outshone other novels of this genre, I really engaged with the characters and cared about them and what happened to them to the point I was googling the author, the history of the book and it's inspiration. If a book can move you even after its finished to make you bother to research the events and story then the author has done a wonderful job. Simone says in the novel "People remember Anne Frank, perhaps they will also remember Hava Daniels." The book resonated with me so much, the kindness of the character Hava and her empathy for others even during a disgusting period of our history, she showed such caring towards people that it will live long with me. It also shows the prejudice, racism and bias of people towards others and that behaviour is learnt and the message that comes across strongly throughout that though from different backgrounds and religions Hava and Simone's friendship endured in the hardest of circumstances. I feel this would also be a wonderful and powerful candidate for a movie adaptations beautiful story of love and friendship set against the cruel backdrop of war.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Natalie Mackay

    I received a free copy of this book from Readers First in return for an honest review. I am a big fan of all stories involving world war 2, I like to read about the different experiences from different perspectives. Although I’m not normally interested in stories where the tag line references ‘heart-wrenching’, this was a very powerful story, with just the right amount of drama and action to help balance the story overall. I really enjoyed that the book was split based on real life diary entries, I received a free copy of this book from Readers First in return for an honest review. I am a big fan of all stories involving world war 2, I like to read about the different experiences from different perspectives. Although I’m not normally interested in stories where the tag line references ‘heart-wrenching’, this was a very powerful story, with just the right amount of drama and action to help balance the story overall. I really enjoyed that the book was split based on real life diary entries, this translates into punchy chapters which I feel help the story be a quick read and overall help to build to the drama that something bigger is coming. The main story is of course centred around a powerful friendship formed between two girls from different backgrounds. I enjoyed learning about both the main characters and was interested in knowing how the story was going to end. All in all, a good book!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Aly Warren

    Ever read a book where you just have to give yourself a moment when you finish? This is one of those books. I've given 5 stars but wish I could give more. Follows a friendship between two 18 year old girls Simone and Hava, before and during the 2nd world war. The war is just beginning when they try to escape. Surrounded by German planes causing destruction. People being shot down around them. They still stick together and help each other to stay strong. That's until tragedy strikes... It gave a ve Ever read a book where you just have to give yourself a moment when you finish? This is one of those books. I've given 5 stars but wish I could give more. Follows a friendship between two 18 year old girls Simone and Hava, before and during the 2nd world war. The war is just beginning when they try to escape. Surrounded by German planes causing destruction. People being shot down around them. They still stick together and help each other to stay strong. That's until tragedy strikes... It gave a very vivid picture of what it would of been like back during the war. It pulls you in from the get go. I found i was trying to read it as fast as I could, trying to find out what happens next. Kept me on the edge of my seat, brilliantly written. This is a 100% a must read. Incredibly heartbreaking

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jasmine

    Quick concise on the go review coming up! - loved the writing style - appreciated the lack of romanticisation of a harrowing time - liked the characters and their relationships, cried multiple times at Simone and her father - did feel like the characters read a little younger than they were - ending was a tiny bit rushed and convenient to get to a conclusion - otherwise a really decent read, one of few WW2 books I can actually recommend Thank you to Harper Inspire and Christopher de Vinck for the cop Quick concise on the go review coming up! - loved the writing style - appreciated the lack of romanticisation of a harrowing time - liked the characters and their relationships, cried multiple times at Simone and her father - did feel like the characters read a little younger than they were - ending was a tiny bit rushed and convenient to get to a conclusion - otherwise a really decent read, one of few WW2 books I can actually recommend Thank you to Harper Inspire and Christopher de Vinck for the copy in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Egle (readingfreakquotes)

    Thank you so much to @readerstfirst @harpercollinsuk and the author for the gifted copy of this book in return for an honest review. It's an historical fiction story based before and during WWII and it tells us a tale of two young girls - Simone Lyon, a daughter of Belgium National hero, and Hava Daniels, eldest daughter of Jewish family. They both are so different but they form inseparable friendship and once Nazis enter Belgium and they get separated from their own families, girls have only eac Thank you so much to @readerstfirst @harpercollinsuk and the author for the gifted copy of this book in return for an honest review. It's an historical fiction story based before and during WWII and it tells us a tale of two young girls - Simone Lyon, a daughter of Belgium National hero, and Hava Daniels, eldest daughter of Jewish family. They both are so different but they form inseparable friendship and once Nazis enter Belgium and they get separated from their own families, girls have only each other to rely on. We all know how horrific and emotional WWII stories are - families separated, loved ones killed, homes lost, starvation and fight for survival - and this one is no different. Author has a wonderful writing style but sometimes I felt disconnected from the story and couldn't fully relate to the characters for some reason. The non-fiction excerpts at the beginning of each chapter added an extra insight into the events and more emotion for the reader. If you like historical fiction you might want to check this tale of friendship, courage and resilience.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Aislinn Kelly

    Ashes is set during World War II, it tells the story of Belgian Simone, daughter of a national war hero and her best friend, Jewish Hava. I have to say I am conflicted about this novel. I love elements of this book, such as the relationship between Simone and Hava but I felt that the story moved at an unsteady pace and was difficult to follow at times. Overall, I like this book but didn't love it. Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for this ARC Ashes is set during World War II, it tells the story of Belgian Simone, daughter of a national war hero and her best friend, Jewish Hava. I have to say I am conflicted about this novel. I love elements of this book, such as the relationship between Simone and Hava but I felt that the story moved at an unsteady pace and was difficult to follow at times. Overall, I like this book but didn't love it. Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for this ARC

  19. 4 out of 5

    River Scott Tyler

    Ashes by Christopher De Vink is a truly in-depth unforgettable experience, you will laugh and Cry but most of all you will fall in love with two amazing girls Hava Daniels & Simone Lyon. The Moment I opened this book I couldn't put it down the friendship between these two girls is beautiful it's a true friendship they stuck together through good times and the bad, Simone a Belgium Girl who's father is Major General Joseph Lyon a man who's very well respected & Hava who's family is Jewish, when th Ashes by Christopher De Vink is a truly in-depth unforgettable experience, you will laugh and Cry but most of all you will fall in love with two amazing girls Hava Daniels & Simone Lyon. The Moment I opened this book I couldn't put it down the friendship between these two girls is beautiful it's a true friendship they stuck together through good times and the bad, Simone a Belgium Girl who's father is Major General Joseph Lyon a man who's very well respected & Hava who's family is Jewish, when the war breaks out both girls are separated from their familys, now they only have each other and they go on a journey of survival they have to fight for their life but then the unthinkable happens Simone & Hava are separated when Hava is taken away because she's a jew, promising never to forget her friend promising to find her. Simone now had a journey of her own to make and to find out what Happened to Hava. This book got to my heart I loved the friendship between Hava &, Simone I felt connected to them I loved getting to know them and their story, Hava and Simone will never be forgotten they both will stay with me, I did have a cry reading this book you will find out why the book is called Ashes that made me cry I felt honoured to read this book it's a book everyone should read @harperinspire Thank you for sending me an early copy of the book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lainy

    Time taken to read - 1 day Pages - 352 Publisher - Harper Inspire Source - Review Copy Blurb from Goodreads A deeply touching novel about two young women whose differences, which once united them, will tear them apart forever, during Hitler’s Nazi occupation of Belgium and France. Based on true events. For fans of All The Light We Cannot See and Tattooist of Auschwitz. Belgium, July 1939: Simone Lyon is the daughter of a Belgium national hero, the famous General Joseph Lyon. Her best friend Hava Da Time taken to read - 1 day Pages - 352 Publisher - Harper Inspire Source - Review Copy Blurb from Goodreads A deeply touching novel about two young women whose differences, which once united them, will tear them apart forever, during Hitler’s Nazi occupation of Belgium and France. Based on true events. For fans of All The Light We Cannot See and Tattooist of Auschwitz. Belgium, July 1939: Simone Lyon is the daughter of a Belgium national hero, the famous General Joseph Lyon. Her best friend Hava Daniels, is the eldest daughter of a devout Jewish family. Despite growing up in different worlds, they are inseparable. But when, in the spring of 1940, Nazi planes and tanks begin bombing Brussels, their resilience and strength are tested. Hava and Simone find themselves caught in the advancing onslaught and are forced to flee. In an emotionally-charged race for survival, even the most harrowing horrors cannot break their bonds of love and friendship. The two teenage girls, will see their innocence fall, against the ugly backdrop of a war dictating that theirs was a friendship that should never have been. My Review I always said I wasn't into historical fiction, maybe it is an age thing but I have read a few in the last few years and really liked this. This one I struggled to put down. Simone Lyon and Hava are best friends, the year is 1939, we are just at the run up to the war before it all kicks off. Simone's dad is a legend for his services in world war one. Hava is of Jewish faith, Simone of Catholic faith - both living with their families in Belgium, their friendship is strong, they are young, innocent and carefree. The strong covers the time period immediately before the war, during and after. Guys it is an emotive read, some of the scenes are very distressing, the brutality of war, the way people are murdered, mistreated and the actual bile and hate that was allowed to flourish, mass murder! At the start of the chapters, mostly, we have quotes taken from Hitler's speeches, the Nuremberg trials that have the hairs on your arms standing. I haven't read much on the wars but everyone of course knows of them and the Holocaust, reading some of the words preached by these "humans" it just beggars belief. The beauty of this story is it focuses on two innocents, bonded by friendship and despite the many horrors/dangers facing them their friendship is whole, beautiful, strong and loyal. We follow the destruction of their lives as they know it, the constant danger as the war progresses. Laughs, friendship, horrors of war, love, family, loyalty - the book delves into it all and brings humanity to life, bouncing off the pages, in both heart warming moments and horror. The writing draws you into the girls lives, living the smiles and tears along with the girls, it is emotive! 4.5/5 for me this time, this is my first time reading this author, I would absolutely read his other works and plan to look him up.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    This is a novel inspired by true events and oh my goodness, does it pull at the heart strings. It is the story of the unbreakable bond between two 18 year old Belgian girls, one of them Jewish, which is significant as the setting is the nazi invasion of Belgium and France in WW2. "I was an 18-year-old girl in May 1940. I had no idea that 40 miles away the largest tank battle in the history of the world was taking place between the Nazi Panzer divisions and the brave, but lightly equipped, Belgian This is a novel inspired by true events and oh my goodness, does it pull at the heart strings. It is the story of the unbreakable bond between two 18 year old Belgian girls, one of them Jewish, which is significant as the setting is the nazi invasion of Belgium and France in WW2. "I was an 18-year-old girl in May 1940. I had no idea that 40 miles away the largest tank battle in the history of the world was taking place between the Nazi Panzer divisions and the brave, but lightly equipped, Belgian army and French tanks." The writing style is quite simple and not flowery, yet it is beautifully powerful and profoundly moving. I found myself close to tears on a number of occasions, and not many books do that to me. I was immediately emotionally invested in the two main characters, Simone and Hava, and the supporting characters were also very well written. The pacing is perfect, I felt myself pulled along as circumstances overtake the girls and their "normal lives" are torn apart. I got lost in this story. "Without warning, I began to feel as if I were suddenly under water. Sound became muted, drowned out by something louder, close, mechanical. Our bodies seemed to move in slow motion, as time juddered to a halt. The sun dimmed, obscured by an uninvited guest, intruding on one last moment of perfection." Some of the descriptions tore my heart out, and I think this is the first time I have understood a little of the terror felt by ordinary people caught up in the war. And the horror, so well described, yet never gratuitous, was genuinely terrifying as I found myself slipping easily into the shoes of those living through it, and shaking my head in disgust that this all really happened. Each chapter starts with a quote or excerpt from, including many of Hitler's own thoughts and words which are no less obnoxious now than when he spoke them. This adds even more realism to an already very real story. I think this is a really important novel and I recommend it to anyone interested in either of the wars (WW1 is also mentioned briefly), or who like reading about the bonds of friendship. Probably unnecessary trigger warning - descriptions of war, loss, injury, blood etc. Because I don't like reading book reviews that give away too much of a book's storyline, I never want to spoil a book for anyone reading my reviews. Therefore, they are always spoiler free, and reveal only my thoughts on my personal reading experience. This will sometimes mean my comments are a little vague so if you prefer more specific details on the storyline etc, please refer to the publisher's synopsis.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alex (Gadget Girl 71)

    This book was a very moving, touching, heart breaking and at times quite harrowing. The book is based around true events that happened in Belgium during World War II. It gives you a glimpse of how terrible war really is. Families being torn apart as some go off to fight, while other families loose their lives just because of being Jewish. This story is about two young women who in spite of their different backgrounds are inseparable best friends. Simone Lyon is the daughter to a WWI war hero Gene This book was a very moving, touching, heart breaking and at times quite harrowing. The book is based around true events that happened in Belgium during World War II. It gives you a glimpse of how terrible war really is. Families being torn apart as some go off to fight, while other families loose their lives just because of being Jewish. This story is about two young women who in spite of their different backgrounds are inseparable best friends. Simone Lyon is the daughter to a WWI war hero General Joseph Lyon. Where Hava Daniels is a beautiful lively Jewish girl. When the war finally reaches Belgium Simone’s father has to leave her to help fight against the Germans. He leaves her with his medal of honor telling her that he’ll be back to claim it back off of her. When the bombs start to fall around them Simone and Hava do what they can to find each other to make sure that they are both safe. Luckily the bombs miss both of their houses even though they live on different ends of the town. Not long after the bombs stop falling the Germans start marching through their town. Simone and Hava know that they need to flee, but before they do Hava must find her family so they can all go together. However when they finally get to her house they have gone, so they make their way to the synagogue hoping to find them there. Yet again the synagogue is deserted. With no signs of her family Simone persuades Hava that she needs to go home and pack and then go back to Simone’s house so she can pack. With so many other people leaving the town trying to flee from the advancing Germans they both find it hard to say in front of them. Eventually their luck runs out there is nowhere else to go. Hava gives herself up to the Germans to protect Simone. Hava wouldn’t change her mind no matter how much Simone pleased with her that it would be better to stay together. Simone pledges that she will come and find Hava again once the war is over. As Hava is taken away Simone has no other option but to go back home and wait out the war. Will the girls ever see each other again and will Simone’s father come back safely too?

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    I feel really bad rating a book on this subject with a low rating, and honestly I considered giving this book two stars, but ultimately I feel like this was the only rating I could give it. I don't know what it was about this book but I just couldn't connect at all to the characters or the story; it almost felt like the writing was quite clinical and there were no real emotions pouring through. The events of the book should read as horrific and terrifying but the characters never seem to be port I feel really bad rating a book on this subject with a low rating, and honestly I considered giving this book two stars, but ultimately I feel like this was the only rating I could give it. I don't know what it was about this book but I just couldn't connect at all to the characters or the story; it almost felt like the writing was quite clinical and there were no real emotions pouring through. The events of the book should read as horrific and terrifying but the characters never seem to be portrayed in a way that shows their emotions or the impact of the events on them. Simone is the daughter of a General and can see in him the horrors of war and yet she spends the first half of the book in complete denial about what is going on, and then because she is his daughter she essentially gets free passage and food everywhere she goes. I think part of the problem is the structure of the book; we get flashbacks throughout the events of the book but they tend to happen in line with events that are happening at the time so it's both jarring trying to figure our when we are, but also disrupts the flow of events that should horrify you. And then there are random quotes in the book from true events or world leaders which again takes you out of the flow of the writing. It almost felt like the author really skimmed the events of the book and focused almost entirely on the girls friendship; which yes came across as very deep, but it meant that the book felt almost superficial? I think it spent so much time setting up about the girl's lives in Brussels, then we get a quick few chapters on them fleeing, and then it's Simone's life afterwards; so I think it was the pacing and the structure of the book that took me out of it. I do think this book portrayed their friendship well and you can see the love and affection they have for one another but ultimately I just felt no emotional connection to the book, which I am disappointed about. Thank you NetGalley for allowing me to read an eARC of this book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Laura McToal

    Starting in Belgium in 1939, this book is based on true events. Simone Lyon and Hava Daniels are best friends, and the stories about their life and adventures growing up together before 1939 are so beautiful; but the entire time you are reading, you know this story is not going to have a happy ending, because while Simone's father is a WW1 hero and goes on to do remarkable and brave deeds in WW2, Simone is Christian. Hava is Jewish. 'Ashes' tells the tale of two young girls fleeing Belgium and th Starting in Belgium in 1939, this book is based on true events. Simone Lyon and Hava Daniels are best friends, and the stories about their life and adventures growing up together before 1939 are so beautiful; but the entire time you are reading, you know this story is not going to have a happy ending, because while Simone's father is a WW1 hero and goes on to do remarkable and brave deeds in WW2, Simone is Christian. Hava is Jewish. 'Ashes' tells the tale of two young girls fleeing Belgium and the invading Nazi army. Their friendship is told in such a touching way, most women remember a friendship they had while they were young, that they thought would last forever, while playing daft games and make-believe. I also really loved the ending, which made me absolutely sob my heart out. Unfortunately, where this book lost for me, was the lack of terror the characters felt when they were running from overhead gunfire and bombs were dropping around them, or even when faced with the SS. Perhaps the girls had simply become numb in the face of fear, but this was not really shown well either. Additionally, how quickly Simone forgets her promise, and how long she takes to remember just does not wash with me. Considering the close bond between Simone and Hava, this promise should have been an obsession that she worked tirelessly at. The fact that she doesn't do this makes me feel like Simone values that relationship rather cheaply, and that makes me hate her a little. 'Ashes' is full of ordinary people with a focus on acts of kindness in the face of brutality and evil. I would happily recommend this book to teens and young adults who are looking to get into this sort of content. However, for people that have already read a lot of true stories based during this time or even non-fiction books about WW2, I would be more likely to recommend 'Night' by Elie Wiesel. I received a free ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl M-M

    Belgium 1939, Simone is the daughter of a war hero. Her father is General Joseph Lyon, his reputation proceeds him and his daughter is treated with respect because she is his offspring. Her friend Hava comes from a devout Jewish family. That isn't something that bothers either of them until rumours start trickling through about the way the Germans are treating the Jews. Suddenly the girls are getting different reactions, depending on who they speak to. Slowly but surely the hatred and importance Belgium 1939, Simone is the daughter of a war hero. Her father is General Joseph Lyon, his reputation proceeds him and his daughter is treated with respect because she is his offspring. Her friend Hava comes from a devout Jewish family. That isn't something that bothers either of them until rumours start trickling through about the way the Germans are treating the Jews. Suddenly the girls are getting different reactions, depending on who they speak to. Slowly but surely the hatred and importance of not associating with the Nazi's enemy number one is seeping into their daily life. When the Germans invade Belgium Hava is separated from her family, Simone's father is off to do his duty, which leaves both young girls alone and running away from the invading force. They nearly make it to some semblance of freedom, although that is debatable when the invaders are coming from all directions, when something terrible happens. Simone forgets the promise she made to Hava and in a way she forgets her too. The war rages and life rages on. Survival of self becomes the most important factor in occupied Belgium. One of the elements of the story I found really interesting was the way Simone reacted or rather her lack of reaction when it come to Hava being Jewish. Almost a denial that there is a difference between them for some people, even if it is one that is forced upon everyone during the Nazi regime. To Simone they are friends, sisters - they are the same. Unfortunately the truth is they are, but it becomes irrelevant during the war. This is one of those stories that makes your heart weep a little, despite the inspirational message woven into the fabric of the tale. De Vinck gives both sides of the story, which includes the trauma and the truth, albeit it sometimes an uncomfortable one. *I received a copy via NetGalley*

  26. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Flowers amongst the rubble Two young women face the invasion of Belgium by Nazi forces, exploring friendship and the heartbreaking treatment of innocents by those with a cruel agenda. Written in the first person, we see through the eyes of protagonist Simone, who has the fortune of being the daughter of a famous Belgium hero. Her close friend Hava has many fine traits, passion, artistic creativity, empathy for all. Hava being Jewish brought an edge to the narrative, which offsets the frivolity and Flowers amongst the rubble Two young women face the invasion of Belgium by Nazi forces, exploring friendship and the heartbreaking treatment of innocents by those with a cruel agenda. Written in the first person, we see through the eyes of protagonist Simone, who has the fortune of being the daughter of a famous Belgium hero. Her close friend Hava has many fine traits, passion, artistic creativity, empathy for all. Hava being Jewish brought an edge to the narrative, which offsets the frivolity and sometimes twee behaviour of two young friends. The wartime backdrop comes increasingly to the fore as the Germans march westwards. We see the naivety and escapism of youth balanced against oppression and death. The friendship of Simone and Hava is highly believable, impacting the reader when they come against hardships, the first person perspective works really well to elevate emotions such as fear/sadness. There are great supporting characters, I liked Hava’s family, learnt some Jewish culture. The Nazi characters were not investigated too deeply, but they were three dimensional characters. Some factual text about their atrocities supported the significance of each part of the story. There were a few Hitler extracts, Churchill too, at times I found it difficult to tell which was which in relation to their similar styles, the content soon became obvious. This book ranges between 3 and 4 stars, but the latter part of the book rises to 5 stars. Despite great engagement in frivolous aspects of their relationship, the increasingly serious issues come across really well. Don’t be hoodwinked by the easy reading style, it has real impact and there are times when you may wish to take a break to fully comprehend the content. I would recommend this book to everyone, but some should choose the right time to read it, it’s not a beach book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Selina

    Ashes is the story of eighteen year old Simone Lyon, and her best friend Hava Daniels, during 1940, the beginning of the Second World War. Simone’s father is a Belgian war hero and recipient of the ‘Croix de Guerre’, so he is well-known across the country. Hava, on the other hand, is from a Jewish family who moved from Poland to Brussels together. Despite their differences, the girls become fast friends when they meet volunteering at the Red Cross. But when war strikes, Simone’s father must leav Ashes is the story of eighteen year old Simone Lyon, and her best friend Hava Daniels, during 1940, the beginning of the Second World War. Simone’s father is a Belgian war hero and recipient of the ‘Croix de Guerre’, so he is well-known across the country. Hava, on the other hand, is from a Jewish family who moved from Poland to Brussels together. Despite their differences, the girls become fast friends when they meet volunteering at the Red Cross. But when war strikes, Simone’s father must leave to fight again, and Hava’s family go missing. With nowhere in Brussels safe to stay for Hava anymore, the girls embark on a dangerous journey across Europe in an attempt to escape the Nazis before it is too late. What really stood out to me at first about this book was the way in which it was written. The language wasn’t overly complicated, yet the writer painted a beautiful picture of Simone and Hava, and their escape. I was quickly drawn in by the story, as there was never a dull moment. Whilst there were some seemingly impossible coincidences, they were made up for later on by some of the completely unpredictable downfalls of the escape. In the end, I think that this made the book better as it made the escape seem more realistic and added to the unpredictability of the story. It really was impossible to put the book down, I ended reading the whole thing in one sitting because I was always kept on my toes, I just had to know what would happen next! I had become completely attached to the characters, and when the story was over and I’d found out what had happened to the characters, I was in tears. All in all, I really enjoyed the book, the writing style was excellent, and I hope that I’ll be able to find more stories like it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Heather Copping

    From the very first pages we learn about some hard facts of war, in regard to civilians, who through no fault of their own loose loved ones or limbs, or even their own lives. I think the front cover is a very poignant design. At the start of each chapter there is a description, often a harrowing one, giving a description of what is happening in the timescale of the war. It's 1939 in Belgium and two young women, both eighteen years old, Hava and Simone. Simone is the daughter of a war hero from WW From the very first pages we learn about some hard facts of war, in regard to civilians, who through no fault of their own loose loved ones or limbs, or even their own lives. I think the front cover is a very poignant design. At the start of each chapter there is a description, often a harrowing one, giving a description of what is happening in the timescale of the war. It's 1939 in Belgium and two young women, both eighteen years old, Hava and Simone. Simone is the daughter of a war hero from WW1 (this book is written in Simone 's words) and her best friend, Hava is the daughter of a devout Jewish family. Although they have very different backgrounds they remain the best of friends, often visiting each others houses. Soon the war is getting too close for comfort and Simone's father is called away. When the Germans start bombing and taking tanks through their home town, Simone describes how terrifying things are for her, a young woman on her own, with all the explosions going off around her home. Eventually they have no choice but to leave the city, as they do so travelling on foot and by train, they come across other unfortunate travellers who under Hitler would be exterminated, gypsies, handicapped and Jewish people. Simone and Hava's friendship has grown over the years, especially now as they both travel through Belgium and France onto Dunkirk, but unfortunately they get separated on a bus, and Hava is taken away by the SS and when the war is over Simone tries to find her friend. A harrowing story at times, makes you feel as if you are there with Simone and Hava in their quest for dancing with a thousand daffodils as Wordsworth wrote in his poem that they were so fond of. Well recommended and worthy of a 5☆ read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Heather Copping

    From the very first pages we learn about some hard facts of war, in regard to civilians, who through no fault of their own loose loved ones or limbs, or even their own lives. I think the front cover is a very poignant design. At the start of each chapter there is a description, often a harrowing one, giving a description of what is happening in the timescale of the war. It's 1939 in Belgium and two young women, both eighteen years old, Hava and Simone. Simone is the daughter of a war hero from W From the very first pages we learn about some hard facts of war, in regard to civilians, who through no fault of their own loose loved ones or limbs, or even their own lives. I think the front cover is a very poignant design. At the start of each chapter there is a description, often a harrowing one, giving a description of what is happening in the timescale of the war. It's 1939 in Belgium and two young women, both eighteen years old, Hava and Simone. Simone is the daughter of a war hero from WW1 (this book is written in Simone 's words) and her best friend, Hava is the daughter of a devout Jewish family. Although they have very different backgrounds they remain the best of friends, often visiting each others houses. Soon the war is getting too close for comfort and Simone's father is called away. When the Germans start bombing and taking tanks through their home town, Simone describes how terrifying things are for her, a young woman on her own, with all the explosions going off around her home. Eventually they have no choice but to leave the city, as they do so travelling on foot and by train, they come across other unfortunate travellers who under Hitler would be exterminated, gypsies, handicapped and Jewish people. Simone and Hava's friendship has grown over the years, especially now as they both travel through Belgium and France onto Dunkirk, but unfortunately they get separated on a bus, and Hava is taken away by the SS and when the war is over Simone tries to find her friend. A harrowing story at times, makes you feel as if you are there with Simone and Hava in their quest for dancing with a thousand daffodils as Wordsworth wrote in his poem that they were so fond of. Well recommended and worthy of a 5☆ read.

  30. 5 out of 5

    gills

    Beautifully Written and Heart-Breakingly Poignant This is ostensibly a story about the invasion of Belgium in May 1940, told from the point of view of teenager Simone Lyon. Simone is 18 in August 1939 when she meets Hava Daniels, whilst the two are volunteering for the Red Cross, and the pair quickly become inseparable. Simone is the only child of General Joseph Lyon, a Belgian national hero and Hava is the eldest child of a devout Jewish family. As Hitler’s men move across Europe and ever closer Beautifully Written and Heart-Breakingly Poignant This is ostensibly a story about the invasion of Belgium in May 1940, told from the point of view of teenager Simone Lyon. Simone is 18 in August 1939 when she meets Hava Daniels, whilst the two are volunteering for the Red Cross, and the pair quickly become inseparable. Simone is the only child of General Joseph Lyon, a Belgian national hero and Hava is the eldest child of a devout Jewish family. As Hitler’s men move across Europe and ever closer to her home, Simone is warned that her association with Hava is not safe and that she should distance herself - Simone doesn’t listen, her friend means too much to her. On 10th May 1940 German troops invade Belgium, bombing everywhere and heading their troops towards Brussels, so the girls are forced to flee. We follow their attempts to escape and the prejudices that they encounter. As you read you know that it isn’t going to end well…but the girls are both such likeable characters that you will this book to be able to somehow change the outcome. At the start of every chapter there are timescale setting epigraphs - some from famous figures at the time - Winston Churchill and Adolf Hitler being amongst them, which give the story extra gravitas. However, there are also some epigraphs which are extracts from the war journal of Christopher De Vinck’s grandfather. This is a nice personal touch to have words written by someone who was a serving Belgian soldier during the Second World War. The story is so beautifully and vividly written that I could envision the girls’ world, the devastating changes happening to it and their journey. It felt like I was with them every step of the way. A recommended read.

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