1944, Poland. Wanda’s life changes forever when her father is hot by a Nazi officer. She vows revenge but discovers a shocking secret about him which enables her to fall in love with him instead…
The Polish Girl is an historical novel set in the 1940s in Poland. The Nazi occupation is devastating the country and Wanda is part of the resistance. This angle on the war is quite unique as I haven’t read other books showing the Polish experience.
The book is written mostly from Wanda’s viewpoint. Her journey is heartbreaking as she copes with the occupation of her country, constant fear of being caught, and the death of her father. She is then conflicted when she is thrust into the company of the man who killed her father. But she soon discovers that the cold and cruel Stefan has been replaced by his sensitive twin Finn.
There are also some chapters from Finn and Gerda’s perspectives. Finn hates his brutal brother and wants to free Poland from the terror of Nazism. He works as a double agent, taking his brother’s place, but his safety is compromised. Gerda is a fascinating character. Brainwashed by Nazi ideology, she has betrayed her own mother. She now wants to marry Stefan to comfirm her place in society and fulfil what she sees as her destiny serving the Fuhrer. Yet she remains troubled by her mother’s arrest and this shows her vulnerability.
The emotion of the book, the love and hate, is well written and the first person perspective allow us insight into the characters and their actions. There are some episodes of brutality but they are not described in too much detail. I found the ending a little rushed and it stretched my credulity but this did not spoil my enjoyment of the book overall.
The Polish Girl is a dramatic and emotional love story set against the horror of war.
The Polish Girl: An utterly heartbreaking and gripping World War 2 historical novel (The Secret Resistance Series) by Gosia Nealon
Poland, 1944. “Please, officer, I beg you—”, I cry. But my father has already fallen. “Don’t leave me, Tata,” I whisper, rushing to desperately cradle him close. As the kind, loving man who raised me takes his last breath, I weep into my hands and promise to fight to end this terrible war, no matter the cost…
Although it won’t bring her beloved father back, twenty-three-year-old Wanda vows to honour his memory and all he stood for. Throwing herself into the Polish resistance, she risks her life on the dangerous mission of transporting ammunition for the underground network’s uprising against the Nazis.
Slipping through the night-time shadows of an empty park to meet an informant—one who could provide crucial supplies in the battle for what’s right—the sight of the man waiting turns Wanda’s blood to ice. Even in the dim light, she instantly recognises him as the soldier who killed her father.
The soldier claims he is a double agent, working for the resistance. Questioning everything, Wanda’s heart races as she is forced to make a split-second decision. Believe the man who she thought was the enemy? Or endanger the lives of her network—and their secret plans to fight the Germans?
Can Wanda trust the man she hates most in the world? Did her father die in vain? Or if she fights her every instinct, will she truly change the tide of the war?
Fans of The Alice Network, The Nightingale and The Tattooist of Auschwitz will adore this utterly heartbreaking page-turner. You will not forget this unputdownable story of love, loss, and the courage it takes to hold on to hope in darkest times.
Previously published as The Last Sketch.
About Gosia Nealon
While Gosia Nealon is a proud New Yorker, she was born and raised in Poland. Her journey to the Big Apple revealed a wealth of cultural differences, but also the values that connect us all. Like the fierce desire to protect family, find love, and ultimately, discover who we are and why we’re here.
Gosia’s award-winning short stories have always delved into life’s biggest questions, but it was the drama, sacrifice, and tragedy of WWII that led her to pen her debut novel, which won a gold medal in the 2022 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY).
Growing up in Poland, Gosia heard many firsthand accounts of the war, told from a perspective rarely captured in mainstream literature. She was compelled to breathe life into two young people falling in love in the midst of the most terrifying conflict of our time.
When Gosia isn’t tapping away at her laptop, she’s often walking the streets of New York. With her husband and two young sons in tow, they search for the most succulent pierogi, transporting them back to the cobbled streets of her childhood.
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