With a true war crime at the crux of this powerful Second World War story, When We Fall is an emotionally charged novel that has left a deep impression on me. This is a thought provoking book that needs to be read as it subtly explores the conflicts in national identity that affect people on a very personal level as well wider society. It also showcases the pivotal roles women played in the war, portraying their bravery, the dangers they faced as well as the blatant sexism they were forced to endure.
When We Fall also powerfully brings to the fore the Katyn Massacre which took place in 1940 and killed thousands of Polish military officers. However for many years both sides of the Cold War chose to hide the truth of this atrocity.
All of the victims of the Katyn massacre were men, except, remarkably, for one woman. And when I discovered that this woman, Janina Lewandowska, was a pilot, I knew that the Polish experience would become my heart of the novel… The story I tell is fiction, but it is one that I could not have begun to imagine without the remarkable life and death of Janina Lewandowska.Carolyn Kirby, explaining what inspired her to write When We Fall
I know my description of this novel may appear heavy to you, but if you’re like me and a fan of historical fiction that educates you as well a captivates you, you definitely should read this book. This is an engaging, dramatic story with unforgettable characters – it will stay with me for a long time.
When We Fall is centred around two very different women – Vee, a British Air Transport Auxiliary pilot and Ewa, secretly working for the Polish resistance as she hosts German officers in her father’s guesthouse in occupied Poland.
It is Stefan that links these two courageous women together. Ewa and Stefan planned to marry but fighting for Poland, he was captured early on in the war. A few years later Vee meets Stefan in England as he serves as an RAF airman. She can’t stop thinking about him.
It is what happened to Stefan as a prisoner of war that poignantly shapes the story. He persuades Ewa and Vee to help him; but they are not entirely sure what they are helping him with. Can they trust Stefan? Can we trust him as a reader? I have to say I was guessing throughout the novel, with the tension building within me more and more as my respect and empathy for Ewa and Vee grew. Especially for Ewa – her story is the most brutal and vividly portrays the horrendous circumstances many Polish people found themselves in. Believe me, this is so thought provoking.
Published to coincide with the VE Day anniversary, When We Fall is such a powerful, emotive read. For me it was a privilege to be invited to review such an important historical novel. I urge you to read it too.
Thank you to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to be part of the blog tour to help publicise this great novel. To follow the blog tour, please see below.