“A group of young women from Smith College risk their lives in France at the height of World War I in this sweeping novel based on a true story—a skillful blend of Call the Midwife and The Alice Network—from New York Times bestselling author Lauren Willig.“
Watch a brief video of author Lauren Willig: Showing the ruined chateau at Grécourt, France, the historic gates of Smith College, pictures of the Smith College Relief Unit:
Lauren Willig is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction. Her works include The Other Daughter, The English Wife, The Forgotten Room (co-written with Karen White and Beatriz Williams), and the RITA Award winning Pink Carnation series. An alumna of Yale University, she has a graduate degree in history from Harvard and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.
Check out this FABULOUS READER’S GUIDE! It includes discussion questions, maps and diagrams drawn by the young women, recipes, and reading resources.
The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab
Overcoming personal fears and differences to bring “hope to the hopeless” – This is the goal of eighteen young American women from Smith College; the “Band of Sisters,” who are crossing the Atlantic in August of 1917. The Smith graduates are heading to Grécourt, France; a village that has been left in ruins by German bombings. Lauren Willig opens each chapter with excerpts from the girls’ letters home to husbands, parents or friends. These are based on actual correspondence from her impeccable, extensive research which is evident on every page.
The Smith graduates are making the crossing carrying immature grudges built while in college along with idealistic expectations that their charitable settlement work would prepare them for war. The eighteen characters that begin the crossing are whittled to much fewer so that readers may focus on background and personal struggles; gathering emotions of angst to adoration as personalities and skill sets emerge.
When they finally arrive in Grécourt, September of 1917, the young women and their director find themselves ministering to approximately 2000 villagers -mothers, children and the elderly; scattered for many miles around Grécourt. Three of the young women are closely tied by bonds of friendship and family. Emmie Van Alden- “plain as shoe leather,” always trying to please her mother, has wonderful people skills with children and adults, but has committed “sins of omission” involving best friend Kate. Kate Moran- has always felt inadequate and not “one of the girls,” due to her background, is also an extremely bored teacher at a girl’s school who can drive and speak French! Dr. Julia Pruyn-Emmie’s cousin, a classic beauty, harboring her own secrets, is one of the two medical “wonders” in the unwieldy group. Which one of these three will discover the secret to winning over the villagers?
The girls’ skills include carpentry, sewing, mechanics, cooking, medicine, teaching children to “play again;” along with hosting American engineers and Canadian foresters who joined in at Grécourt dinners, movies and dances. Do not be fooled by these activities! Between the love interests, Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations prepared from rations, these courageous women were performing acts of daring and bravery on a daily basis-no matter how close to the front lines, bombings and fighting or how much rain or snow, heat or mud.
The young women arrived in France as a disjointed gang: some haughty or humble, some beauties or bumbling, some sarcastic or skillful. Readers will not forget these charming young women who Lauren Willig has skillfully molded into a “Band of Sisters.” Five “Croix de guerre!”