The author in
‘You can’t reason with a fascist’.
Nowhere was World War 2 as brutal as in Yugoslavia. Yet from the anguish of a nation emerged the most successful resistance movement in Occupied Europe.
When Tito allowed the girls from the villages to serve in combat roles, it was an innovation Anton found hard to accept. Until he met Mara. She had just shot her first fascist, and her face beneath his was exuberant, breathless and beautiful. He was at war, and clearly on more fronts than he’d anticipated.
But could he save her from that single brilliant and psychotic fascist she could not shoot?
At the hour of national crisis he was brought down like a bull by a terrier, and his memories returned to him only slowly, the good and the bad, but mostly the bad. There was shouting in which he had joined, then a weakness outside his experience and the confusion of not understanding why the slipway was rising to meet him. As is usual with accidents that occur in public places, there was also a crowd that gathered from nowhere to watch in horrified silence. He remembered the woman who stepped out from the onlookers to bully him kindly: ‘Put your head between your knees, Captain, before you knock yourself out.’ He remembered his reply: ‘I’m not going to faint,’ just before he did.
So he couldn’t recall Miloš Lompar, aged seventeen and frantic with remorse, attempting to staunch his desperately bleeding shoulder with a rag stained with lubricating oil, nor Commander Filip Kolarov (whom everyone expected to be the hero) recruiting five sailors to transport him from beneath the blood-stained propellers of the torpedo boat and into the waiting ambulance without dropping him. Upon his arrival at the hospital, the rural surgical ward, which dealt mostly with tonsils, appendixes and adenoids, at once increased in self-importance thanks to all the excitement, and he was hustled inside with as little delay as a starting pistol. From a morning that had threatened mundane routine, his shattered shoulder had given the ward meaning and purpose and, by the time of the afternoon ward-round, it was all back together again and reposing below its soft white pillow, as contentedly as if it belonged to the hospital and not to him.
This general sense of achievement originated in a surgeon, white-coated and elegantly balding, surrounded by a retinue of medical students who beamed in unison every time he opened his mouth. Adjoining them stood a scrub nurse and a ward sister who looked like she had ironed on her scowl that morning. Before their eyes, Dr Rastoder had performed veritable miracles of surgery, keenly assisted by at least two of those present—possibly more—and had only had to consult the textbook once.
‘Awake at last!’ he chirped. He smiled. His audience smiled. ‘Eighty stitches! And that's not counting the two severed tendons I repaired, or the puréed muscle or the skin graft. You have a great deal to be thankful for, Captain Marković. You’re lucky you didn't lose your arm. Damned lucky!’ he stressed with a very personal determination.
Marković sensed a conspiracy and, in confirmation, one of the students twirled his moustache.
‘How long...?’ he began.
He pushed himself into a sitting position with his left hand and was at once overcome by a wave of dizziness. On a wheeled table to one side he saw the hazy remains of a blood transfusion, a throbbing jug, the ghost of his dead mother, and a glass that replenished itself with water. At the very end, in proud isolation, a urine bottle grinned at him, half-full.
‘You've been unconscious for five hours,’ returned the doctor. Acknowledging the urine bottle, he added, ‘More or less.’
Marković grimaced. His mother eased him back onto his pillow and then floated away, and the mountain of snowy bandages on his right side settled comfortably down beside him. He watched the crowd observe this with pride.
‘Wiggle your fingers,’ ordered the angry ward sister.
He wiggled his fingers and a shudder ran through the shoulder.
The scrub nurse glanced apprehensively at the surgeon.
‘Perfectly normal,’ he purred. ‘Touch your toes.’
The medical students tittered.
‘Just my little joke.’
‘Can I go home?’ asked Marković. As they seemed so cheerful, he allowed himself hope. ‘I need to get back to the apprentices.’
‘Those two who landed you in here?’ Dr Rastoder inverted his eyebrows and proceeded in a voice of doom. ‘There are more immediate things that you need to know. An infection from any wound that extensive is inevitable. We expect one quite soon; don’t we, Sister?’
The ward sister nodded grimly.
‘You’re not serious?’ exclaimed Marković.
‘I’m afraid I am, Captain.’
‘But I’ve heard about trials of…’
‘Penicillin? Rumours, at this point. Your one stroke of luck is that Yugoslavia’s not at war with Germany yet. In that case, there would be the possibility of catching an infection from someone brought in fresh from the battlefield.’
Marković levered himself up cautiously. He stopped. He checked both sides. Reaching one arm beneath the injured shoulder, he hauled it up beside the other one and searched around for the exit.
The surgeon cut him off shrewdly.
‘Don’t even think about it.’
'I can’t stay here.'
'You're no good to anyone dead.'
‘It’s only a shoulder!’
‘You wait,’ declared the surgeon.
‘Next patient,’ said the sister.
The team moved on, and the medical students beamed back like a round of applause.
The frustration of his predicament and the pain made him grumpy, of course, and, by the close of that first day, as dinner was served with regimental efficiency from the other end of the long ward, there was no one in it who wasn’t heartily sick of his clenched teeth and thunderous face. When, at lights out, the same sister who had stood by his bed during the ward-round pinned on her veil like a helmet and marched towards him with his night's morphine flashing from her syringe, he glared at her with such indignation that she declared, in a tight-lipped tirade, that she'd met a lot of patients like him. Oh yes, she had.
‘Take a good look around you, Captain. The worst tonsils, appendixes and adenoids of my acquaintance are models of virtue compared with you—God give me strength! And you needn't think you can expect pain relief to order later on when you can’t sleep, so you’ll have the injection when I tell you—and do something about your manners while you’re at it.’
As bad luck would have it, the instant he had accepted the shot and she was massaging it in, he fell asleep in full view of the whole ward, and everyone said they hoped he stayed that way.
The next day was visiting day. The hours were from two o’clock until five, on Wednesdays and Sundays. No illicit visiting was permitted, except when compassionate grounds intruded upon the mental health of the ward sister, to whom the disruption of her routine occasioned great anxiety. Before the double doors could be flung open to gift-bearing relatives, the beds must be made to perfection, the floor must be swept clean of every cowering microbe and the surgeon must complete his rounds. Pills, elixirs, injections, and enemas must be distributed and their associated smells dispersed through the open windows.
At the very end of the day’s queue, as if the act of waiting might atone for their guilt, in slunk two gangly boys. Accompanying them was a commander with a sharp eye and a resolute bearing that invited trust. Indeed, a head or two had already turned at the click of his boots on the floor, though he had cloaked his agreeable features with a severity appropriate to the occasion. Marković could see that he regretted doing it, but the boys were completely fooled. They had been very careful to dress in full uniform, to comb their hair and shine their boots, but the perfect presentation could not obscure the terror on their faces nor their quaking knees.
As the trio approached the bed, the officer came to a halt, removed his hat and placed it beneath his arm.
'Lompar!' he commanded.
At once one of the boys handed forward a small bunch of flowers, missing half their petals. At the sight of his commanding officer sprawled on the bed undressed and unshaven, he mumbled an apology only distinguishable as such by the flush of shame that preceded it.
The second youth now produced a package of waxed brown paper, which he unwrapped to reveal a small nut cake. He saluted feebly and stammered as he stepped back, 'Miloš and I are very sorry, sir.'
Marković smiled wanly and acknowledged them without criticism, for he could see how miserable they were, and he was only grumpy.
The commander waved the youths away.
'All right, dismissed!'
The boys fled. At once, the atmosphere lightened and the officer sprung upon the crisp white sheets and positioned himself comfortably on the bed, flipping up the back of his jacket where it subsided too far into the springs.
‘I knew you’d want to see them, Anton,’ he began—bounce, bounce.
‘Oh, don’t sit on the bed, Filip, for God’s sake!’
‘Why?’ Now that he didn’t have to put on an act, he slung one leg across the other, and the bed chortled a little creak in response.
‘Because that old nursing sister will kill me. You’re not allowed to sit on her beds.’
‘Really?’ Filip released his long limbs and extracted a chair from beside the bed of the elderly man next to him. ‘May I?’ he enquired, engaging the fellow in such a charming smile that the man looked suddenly shy, as if few people had ever taken the time to acknowledge him. ‘Thank you.’
He settled himself comfortably on the chair and tapped a rhythm upon his hat.
‘Which old nursing sister? They all looked nice to me.’
‘Boadicea. The one wearing the armour. She hates me.’
‘Nonsense.’ He flourished a cavalier hand into the depths of a canvas satchel and announced, ‘Housekeeping!’
‘What a pleasant fellow you are!’ grumbled Marković.
‘I am on your side, Anton,’ returned Filip genially, ‘even if you have already made an enemy—though, personally, I doubt it. Now, the Chief, out of the generosity of his heart, has packed you two shirts, your most threadbare trousers he could find—he believes old clothes are suitable for convalescence—your toothbrush, some odds and ends, and a razor to cut the cake.'
‘To cut the cake. Poor Petar’s mother insisted he bring it. You won’t be able to use the razor to shave, so beguile one of those nice nurses to do the honours. Girls love that sort of thing. Makes them feel like mothers. Let them bring out your legendary charm.'
'What legendary charm?'
‘Intimacy, Anton, that female equator you haven’t crossed yet. Now observe! You need a shave and that was a good-looking nurse who just slipped behind those curtains across the aisle. She’d be an ace with a razor, I bet.’
‘I can shave myself.’
‘Then here’s a shirt. Get her to help you dress.’
‘Can you leave if you’re going to provoke me, please?’ said Anton, attempting to make himself comfortable with his single arm.
Filip grinned at him, poised like a barge pole above the mattress.
‘It’s true, then, what they say about hospital beds being the delusion of a Spartan mindset?’ he asked.
‘My shoulder hurts,’ said Anton in reply.
‘It’s your own fault.’
‘It was not my fault.’
‘It wasn’t your boat.’
‘In that particular case, Filip, it didn’t need to be.’
‘You still haven’t told me what you think of the bed.’
It did no good arguing with Commander Kolarov. While he breathed, he would pursue his theme of sympathy being detrimental to recovery, and the ward, which had tensed for a clash of opinions, settled back down, pleased that no one had ruffled its professional façade by arguing about whether sympathy might be helpful.
‘The wonder is,’ conceded Anton at length, ‘that you're expected to get better sleeping in one.’
This answer relieved Filip of a social burden, and even the elderly man in the next bed expressed his mottled pleasure with lips crinkled by the absence of teeth. But Anton was disappointed because he would have liked some sympathy from Filip and it looked like he wasn’t going to get any. He lay on his bed between the convivial commander and the sensitive old man and thought about the pleasure of his own company, as he often did.
He had regular features, similar to the vast majority of his compatriots who agreed, to a man, that he looked good in the right light and the right mood, but could appear fractious when the sun disappeared behind a cloud. Anton said his feelings were none of their business, and this was generally true except for the present circumstances. Yet, he had made no attempt to adjust to the hospital, claiming in his defense that he didn’t care what people thought of him. By contrast with the two rows of men and boys all washed, dried and thoroughly institutionalized, he stood out by his refusal to acquiesce peacefully, which no amount of soap and water could remedy.
A faecal odour floated from behind the curtains. The pretty nurse withdrew with a bedpan and hurried from the ward. Filip frowned.
'I hate to see you like this, Anton. Smile. Be grateful. Tell them a joke. You can look like the grim reaper, but if you make them laugh, they’ll love you.’
‘I would appreciate some sympathy, Filip.’
‘You won all hearts yesterday when you fainted on the slipway.’
‘Go to hell.’
‘Not today, my friend. Got the incident report to write.’ He pulled out a pencil and paper from the same modest satchel, crossed his legs and began scribbling. ‘What happened?’
‘I’m not sure.’
‘Then you’d better think of something quickly for the sake of bureaucracy. I put the boys through this, this morning.’
'You weren't too hard on them, I hope?'
'Me?’ replied Filip, his head still sunk in the paper.
‘I thought they looked pretty scared.’
‘Well, one look at you would be enough to scare anyone.’ He tapped the pencil on his teeth and continued writing. ‘If you must know, there were safety procedures that everyone overlooked, including you.’ The commander was not given to reprimand, but the blistering white bandages reflected the sun into his eyes and circumstances had wrung it from him. He paused in his writing and placed his hands open in front of him. ‘What were you even doing there, Anton?'
'The boys were curious.'
‘Petar, who hadn’t removed the fuse before you started lecturing him on engines and Miloš, who insisted afterwards that he heard you shout “turn it off”?’
‘Well, why did he start it in the first place?’
'Because he’s seventeen and he’s wondering what might happen if he flicks that switch. That’s what seventeen-year-old boys do. You shouldn’t have left him and gone off with Petar to explain how propellers work. Miloš panicked when your sleeve got caught; Petar said that he forgot about the fuse, and so did you.’ Kolarov shook his head, most particularly at Anton. ‘Disregard for protocol, Anton. This is when these things happen. Now that we've lost a man we can't afford to lose, I realize the advice is a bit long in the tooth, but you always have to learn the hard way.’
‘You really think I’m that bad?’ Anton muttered.
‘You know I don’t,’ replied Filip. ‘You’re one of the most capable men I’ve got but, right now, you look like a bear with a sore tooth. And I’m sorry about the boys, but you picked a bad time to be their friend instead of their leader.’
‘Why? You’ve had some more news from Belgrade?’
Filip tossed aside his pencil and drew his brows together.
‘Well, you heard about the prince, that he capitulated to Hitler?’
‘And you knew that the alliance with Germany had not gone down well in the capital. Prince Paul’s long gone. General Simović saw to that, and now they’re ranging the streets singing “better war than the pact.” The fellow on the wireless said he’d never seen such jubilation.’
‘We’re at war?’
‘Not yet, but the staff at the German and British embassies have left Belgrade, so it’s coming. Hitler knows the strategic value of the country and, after the capitulation of Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary, he expected us to agree easily. Our show of defiance will have let that famous rage of his off its leash.’
‘But are we ready?’
‘No, we’re not ready! We’ve been treading on eggshells to keep their eyes off us. Now the Nazis will wipe Yugoslavia from the map.’
He spoke calmly but the underlying tension in his voice conveyed its own urgency, and through the window to the west, the grey limestone peaks trembled at his words from the water to the sky. What a desperate place was a hospital
when the enemy would come over the mountains!
Anton pushed himself up until their eyes were level.
'Listen, Filip, I’ve got to get out of here.'
But Filip only rose and replaced his hat.
‘The minute I hear anything further, I'll tell you.' He patted the bed affectionately. 'You just sit tight and get better.'
He headed towards the exit. On his way out, he met the pretty nurse who was struggling to load the cleansed bedpan into the top level of a cupboard. With a gracious smile, he took it from her, slipping it in easily and, out of the corner of one eye, Anton caught him winking at her.
By the third day, he was managing to rumble around the ward without dizziness, to the distress of the other patients who wished he'd push his throttle in and not appear so menacing: one hundred and ninety centimetres of bone and muscle, as dense and dark as the trunk of a black poplar and just as communicative. Since regaining consciousness, he’d scarcely exchanged two words with anyone except the old man beside him, whom he’d found hiding beneath the bedclothes in anticipation of a visit from his wife.
However, early on his fourth morning, while watching out the window for Germans, his wolf-like reflection in the glass so alarmed him that he ensconced himself in a secluded cubicle in the bathroom and, with Kolarov’s threats of female intimacy ringing in his ears, attempted to shave with his left hand. In order to avoid cutting himself, he was forced to proceed so carefully that an hour wore away in utter concentration, until a white veil swished into his cubicle and he glanced up to see the senior sister frowning down at him. She watched without speaking as he scraped cautiously around his neck, all the while exhibiting that female exasperation for his sex that assumed he would make a mistake merely because he was male.
Finally, she slanted her head to one side and remarked, 'All you had to do was ask, Captain.'
'You are disturbing me,' he informed her.
They had supported his injured shoulder with a sling and he had put on the trousers that Filip had brought. One arm he managed to ease into a shirt and he had draped the sleeve of the other over the bandages and fastened three buttons up his chest. Thus attired, he fancied that he looked on the road to recovery. The nurse and her caustic quip had soured that achievement. He was all lather and inexperience.
'You are going to cut yourself,' she said.
'I am not going to cut myself, sister,' he replied coolly, wiping his face with a towel. 'And now, if you please, I'm certain you have better things to do with your time.'
'I do, as a matter of fact, but it took me a while to find you. Your commander is waiting by your bed.'
So certain was Anton that Kolarov could only be there to inform him of catastrophe, and that the nurse had deliberately delayed the announcement because she was a ball-busting man-hater, that he pushed past her before he broke his own rule and swore at a woman in public.
Sure enough, he found the commander pacing around the bed, unable even to sit.
'What?' demanded Anton. ‘What?’
'Thank God!' Filip motioned him aside, brushing a ribbon of sweat from his forehead. 'Where can we talk privately?'
They returned to the cubicle. At the sight of the commander, the sister departed politely.
‘The Luftwaffe has bombed Belgrade,’ Kolarov reported. Punctuated. ‘Early this morning. Easter Sunday. With civilian casualties in the thousands. For our jubilation, Hitler has sworn to teach the Slavs a brutal lesson.’ He paused and Anton heard the suffering in his voice. ‘They didn’t even target the military.’
‘Where then?’ asked Anton in a taut whisper.
‘Homes and businesses. The whole city’s ablaze.’
‘Do we mean that little to him?’
Disbelief was in his voice, yes, but a growing recognition of something that was merciless as well.
‘It’s intimidation, Anton. Don’t credit Hitler with any sophistication.’
‘And how did we respond?’
‘Not well. A few dog fights. I told you, we weren’t ready, and there is the sense also that some of our positions were betrayed.’
‘What about the naval base? I haven’t heard any planes. How soon will we be attacked? What about my boat?’
‘The Nebojša’s dived at Tivat, but nothing’s happened yet. She’s sitting on the bottom of the bay.’ Kolarov checked his watch. ‘It’s half past eight. She’s been there for an hour and a half. Late last night Naval Command was warned by the British about a possible attack here this morning. All craft have been ordered to change their positions daily, as long as they have the fuel to do so. Other than that, we wait to see if and when the army surrenders. When, I think, sooner than if.’
After Kolarov had left the ward, Anton felt bereft. He stared at the two long rows of beds, some empty, a few occupied, and experienced a loneliness he had not felt since he was a child at the end of a long summer's outing. Something had delayed his family—the bank, the tram, he couldn't remember now—and, by the time they’d arrived, everyone else had gone home except him. Distressing for a man to recall the small hurts of boyhood.
The German attack on Belgrade had profoundly shocked him. As a member of the military there should have been some action to take, yet he could do nothing.
‘Destroy Paris,’ he thought bitterly. ‘Slaughter French civilians without provocation and see how the world reacts.’
Once, as a student, he had been to Paris: a new city then, only seventy or eighty years old, but already the darling of the Western world, as dedicated to style and indulgence as London was to finance. Paris was not to know that to Serbs, Belgrade had had the same reputation for pleasure, and he doubted whether it would have cared. Paris was a teenager and just as self-involved. The Nazis would not ravage a city younger than the age of consent, but their ideology justified the destruction of a Slavic population.
The morning sun flooded the long ward and Anton sat on his bed with his head in his hands contemplating with increasing despair the fate of his boat. Since nine o’clock, he had heard the drone of bombers and, in reply, the sharp report of anti-aircraft fire. He knew the planes would have to have come from Italy. The Italians had long coveted the Yugoslav coast and were undoubtedly taking advantage of the German invasion to launch their own. The bombers would be targeting ships anchored in the bay and he doubted whether a civilian hospital would be evacuated.
Lunchtime came and went. The sun began its swift descent upon the crags around the water. Three o'clock struck and Anton watched the minutes glide on until a quarter past, when the day-nurses, anxious but professional, would gather in their small glassed-in office for the handover to the evening staff. As his case arrived, they would discuss its particular features, his treatment and his progress. Quickly they would move on to the next patient, one or two men after him, then the last one, close their books, smooth their veils, and seal his doom for another night.
His shoulder would not heal while it was condemned to be here, for healing is holistic and his heart was broken. Briskly, he seized the satchel from beneath his bed, sat with it on the sheets and thrust the flap open with his foot. He shoved in his few belongings, ignoring the insistence of the evening nurse, who came bustling up, that he wait for the doctor.
On observing that he had no intention of waiting for anyone, she repacked his satchel with hydrogen peroxide, iodine and bandages and begged him to return tomorrow. But he had made up his mind and her plea fell on deaf ears. As she chased him down the ward, he threw the strap over his shoulder and left without a backward glance. He could imagine her expressing his medical sacrilege in outrageous adjectives.
Reviewed by Christian Sia for READERS’ FAVORITE, 2020 Novel Competition
‘Through Forests and Mountains’ by Margaret Walker is a military novel with strong historical underpinnings. Set in Yugoslavia in 1941, the story follows Anton Marković, A submarine captain in the Yugoslav Navy after a propeller accident leaves him crippled and left behind as the German and Italian armies attack. He suffers an infection and nearly dies, and joins the Montenegrin Partisan group where he meets Mara, the daughter of the Yugoslav ambassador to Britain. He is attracted to her, but she isn’t easy to get. She is a woman whose heart longs for someone else. She likes Tito and has a possessive ex-boyfriend who is hunting her. As the group moves from place to place, Anton is keen on Mara who doesn’t pay him much attention but, when she disappears, Anton can’t stand the thought of losing her. Together with Nikola, they set out to find her. What happens next is a face to face confrontation with Miroslav. But who will have Mara?
Anton is a character that I liked - an awkward man who is more connected to machines than to people and who feels a strong attraction for a woman after suffering a tragedy at war. I was very keen to see what will become of him and Mara. The romance is beautifully well written and I loved the way the author writes about the emotions of the characters. The suspense is strong and it allows the read to follow the characters as they evolve through difficult situations. The story is beautifully told and the themes of war, love, patriotism, and friendship are well developed. Margaret Walker has a unique gift for setting and the historical elements of the setting are intelligently crafted, allowing readers a feel of WWII while exploring the politics of the war at the time. Through Forests and Mountains is an adventure in wartime and a story that captures the austerity of life during the German and Italian invasion. It features strong characters and a love story that progresses to a delightful final scene.
HeenaRathore Pardeshi, the Reading Bud
Through Forests And Mountains by Margaret Walker is a beautifully written story about personal emotions and difficult situations (socially and otherwise.)
This book reads more like an experience than a story and takes the readers to the historical settings of upheaval in Yugoslavia in the year 1942. The historical backdrop is beautifully articulated and I was really impressed by the author penchant for details. The characterisation is brilliant and I loved the main leads, Anton and Mara, as well as the cast of secondary characters. All the characters had so much to offer to the story and the build-up of the plot, that it made the book a rich combination of a solid plot with equally strong characterisation.
This book covers a wide spectrum of emotions - from one's love for their country and friendships between individuals to blossoming romantic relationship between the leads (that is built slowly and steadily.) Overall, this book is a highly engaging and entertaining read and I would recommend it to all readers, especially readers who love historical fiction works.
N.N. Light's Book Heaven
Through Forests and Mountains is a riveting tale of World War II not often told.
It’s 1942 and fascism is sweeping through Europe like the plague. Many strong men have gone off to war, leaving farmers and women to fend for themselves. Mara is one of those women and she is thrilled when she is allowed to fight back with a weapon. When she meets Anton, she’s not sure what to make of his scowl. He’s got a bullet wound in the head but maybe it is more than that. As they travel through the forests and mountains in Yugoslavia, one thing is certain: death to fascism by any means necessary.
The Germans were unstoppable until Tito in Yugoslavia came up with a brilliant plan. Margaret Walker takes us inside one of the most successful resistance groups who thwarted the Nazis at every turn. While this is historical fiction, Through Forests and Mountains reads like a World War II memoir. Everything from the setting to the beautiful descriptive narration to the characters adds immense enjoyment to the story. The stark contrast between Anton and Mara sets the tone for the book. The plot moves at a good pace. Margaret Walker must have done a lot of research and it shines in Through Forests and Mountains. I learned quite a bit from reading and look forward to reading more from Margaret Walker. If you’re a historical fiction reader, you’ll quite enjoy Through Forests and Mountains. If you’re looking for a fresh viewpoint on World War II, pick up Through Forests and Mountains. Highly recommended!
Through Forests And Mountains beautifully integrates the complexity of the WW2 Yugoslavian " Resistance " fighters in their partisan fight (for freedom from Nazism & Fascism ) with romance, the role-of-women, and even a humourous perspective on human frailties.
Highly - researched and detailed to the social, health and military settings of 1942, this novel provides much insight into the complexities of mid-century demographics. Dedicated reading of this novel is richly rewarded ...especially from an Australian context. "Young Adults" and older members of the Yugoslav "diaspora" alike will appreciate this book...especially as a rich preparation for the sequel. Frequent references to the introductory map is perhaps useful...and do enjoy learning fragments of Serbian language from this complex Bosnian- Serbian region.
Susie Helme. ReedsyDiscovery.com
A heroic story, gorgeous, unclichéd writing, reflecting superb understanding of the history.
The pronouncements of the partisans on the two extreme ends of the political spectrum, communists and fascists, are credible; this evidences the author’s understanding of both and is something that is hard to do. The scene where Mara first encounters the villagers of Drvar is astounding!
We learn the complicated history of wartime Yugoslavia, fed bit by bit into the dialogue. This is very artful. Despite the complexity of the history, the plot is not too complex to follow, and time is taken to appreciate the horrors of war.
Death to fascism; freedom to the people!