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Girl at War by Sara Novic is powerful exposition of the enduring legacy of conflict

GirlAtWarAna Juric exists in a no-man’s land between who she was and who she is. Her attempts to bridge the gap provide the fascinating narrative of Sara Novic’s debut novel Girl at War.The ten-year-old tomboy Ana has grown up in an increasingly partisan Zagreb as Yugoslavia disintegrates. Like many of the children she is still oblivious to the full implications of what is unfolding around them. Instead, she and her friend Luka revel in the increasing disruption to daily life, skipping school when they can, taking it in turns to pedal the cycle-powered electricity generator in the local bomb shelter. The sudden disappearance of one of their school friends is seen first in the context of robbing them of their best goalie.

When her baby sister Rahela becomes desperately ill her parents manage to get her on an emergency international airlift to be treated in America. But as they return from taking her to the clinic in neighbouring Bosnia they are stopped by soldiers at an ad hoc roadblock, demanding their papers. “My parents’ faces grayed as my mother searched the glove compartment for our passports. Giving up our IDs would provide the soldier with the greatest weapon against us: the knowledge of our names. Our last name specifically, the one that carried the weight of ancestry, ethnicity.


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