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on 8 March 2011
As an Anglo-American, I am posting my Amazon US review on Amazon UK as I think many British readers will appreciate this book. It makes a very real, and I think successful, effort to get outside any US insularity, and really look at these 26 women heroes of the resistance with fresh eyes and illustrate the patterns about how they came to take heroic actions. Below is what I said on the US Amazon.

I literally could not put this book down and have read it within a day of its arrival. I think what most drew me to it was the optimism about human nature that it encouraged. Here were 26 young women, who in one way or another, encountered directly or heard about, the massive, murderous injustices of the Nazi regime in their own or other countries and did something about it. I found extraordinary, the repeated instances where confronting an impossible moral dilemma between their own survival and saving others, so many chose to save others. I also liked how often an intuitive sense of danger or of what to do saved the day. Generally ordinary young women suddenly made extraordinary by appalling situations. Though I guess Marlene Dietrich, Martha Gellhorn, or Josephine Baker, who are included, are a little less ordinary. The picture of Marlene Dietrich trapped behind the lines in the Ardennes in late 1944 is extraordinary.

And as you look through the photographs of each of the 26, you see a something they all seem to have in common: this moral courage, this ability to look profound evil in the eye and not flinch. Some of them died, and though I already knew something of the story of the White Rose German resistance group, the photo of one of its members Sophie Scholl is what really haunted me. Her seriousness and she was the one who in the midst of the monstrous Roland Freisler's tirade at her trial,where she was sentenced to death, she simply shouted: 'Somebody had to make a start! What we said and wrote are what many people are thinking. They just don't dare say it out loud!' And these 26 young women said or did it out loud.

And while some were executed, many of them survived to pay testament to those who didn't, and keep up the idea of resistance to evil. Many of them lived to a ripe old age and I guess having made the most of life. Thank you to Kathy Atwood for bringing their stories to life and to light. Her style of recounting the events she recalls is gripping, but deeply humane and compassionate, informed no doubt by her own faith in humanity. The book has excellent additional resources on each of the 26 and would make a great gift to any feisty young women (and men) who wonder what life direction they should take. Here are 26 inspirational stories.

And for those who died saving others or fighting evil: we remember you and this book helps us in that necessary process.Thank you all. It occurs to me that while the Yad Vashem remembers the 'Righteous among the Nations' who helped saved Jews, perhaps this book is a step towards more general recognition of those who saved their fellows.
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on 12 August 2011
No one knows how they will react in a situation of utmost peril. Fortunately, for most of us, we will never have to face that ultimate test of one's deepest resolve. None of the 26 heroines in Kathryn Attwood's new book, Women Heroes of World War Two, thought of themselves as heroes but their actions beggar belief. For the greater good they defied or tried to defy the evils of Nazism, each trying in her own, individual way to throw a small spanner into the giant machine that was Hitler's Germany.
Atwood has done a sterling job of pulling together the stories of 26 women, young and old, who acted with breathtaking heroism without due regard for their personal safety.

Most of these 26 women lived to tell their tale but four of them did not. Sophie Scholl, member of the anti-Nazi group, The White Rose, was arrested and had to endure the mockery of a kangaroo court which ended inevitably with her execution. Three of the 26 were famous - actress and German exile Marlene Dietrich, opera singer Josephine Baker, and journalist, Martha Gellhorn.

Famous or otherwise, all 26 stories are inspiring. Take Irene Gut, only 19 years old, she was asked "What can you do? You're only a young girl." But Irene did much - hiding Jews under the very noses of the Germans and living on her nerves to keep them undetected. When her antics were discovered by a Nazi officer, she was forced to become his mistress merely to protect her Jewish hideaways.

Aimed primarily at the young adult reader, the book will appeal to any age, such are the stories told within. Atwood is tasked with a big responsibility - to do justice to the telling of these remarkable tales, and she does so with aplomb. The choice of photographs is excellent in bringing these women alive - lovely black and white shots of smiling, carefree girls. The photo of Scholl relaxing with her student friends could have been taken on any campus at any time if it were not for the Nazi uniforms. There is no hint of the responsibility of the task they have brought to bear upon themselves - the undermining by leaflet of Germany's blind belief in their Leader.

The chapters are divided by country - Germany, Poland, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Great Britain and the US. The stories of the five American women, including Dietrich and Gellhorn, are all based in Europe. Atwood provides a fine context - a general introduction that gives a brief overview of the war in Europe and the work of the resistance across the continent, and an introduction for each country. The story of each woman finishes with a `Find Out More' section, referring the reader to both printed and online material. Plus a glossary, a fuller bibliography and an index.

The Soviet Union is an unfortunate omission, which given the ferocity of the Eastern Front and the work of the Soviet partisans, would deserve a book in its own right.

That apart this is a wonderful piece of work that Atwood has produced and it deserves a wide audience.

Rupert Colley.
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on 10 July 2015
Although this book is marketed at teenage audiences, it can be read by any age for its examples of heroism. Many of the 26 heroines in the book lived to tell their tale, but even when they did not - being tortured and murdered by the Nazis - Atwood treats the subject with respect and discretion so it is suitable to be read by audiences of all ages and sensibilities. I would recommend this book particularly for Girl Guiding Groups and girls' book clubs.

The book is divided by country, with woman heroes from: Germany, Poland, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Great Britain, and the United States. Among the stories are Irena Sendler, who helped children escape from the infamous Warsaw Ghetto; Virginia Hall, known by the Nazis as Artemis (one of their most wanted), who had an artificial leg named Cuthbert; and Sophie Scholl, the German student beheaded for distributing anti-government tracts.

These whistle-stop tours of their lives hardly give enough information about these wonderful women who stood up to be counted in the face of tyranny, but they are inspirational and encourage the reader to use the bibliography at the end to find out more. It is thoroughly readable, and absolutely compelling, and is a necessary read to ensure the bravery of these fine women is never forgotten.
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on 18 November 2013
I went into Kathryn Atwood's Women Heroes of World War II hoping the experience would leave me with the same fascination I experienced after watching HBO's excellent series Band of Brothers. While the book does deliver in that regard, in some ways I feel like I got so much more.

Atwood paints vivid stills of her twenty-six heroines, offering up generally their most significant wartime contributions as well as fascinating peeks into each woman's personality. Perhaps my favorite profile is that of Nora Inayat Khan, a petite and quite shy British resistance worker who failed miserably early on but came back to become one of the most fierce and determined women in the book. At one time, the once gentle girl fought violently with the unfortunate Nazi sympathizer sent to arrest her, clawing and scratching him so badly that he could only restrain her by putting a gun to her head.

Atwood's writing is straightforward and suitable for all ages, although it's clear that the adventure-style telling of most stories is designed for younger audiences. Some profiles wrap rather quickly, but this seems to be a byproduct of Atwood's desire to keep the book compact more than anything else. Each story could be (and often has been) expanded upon to form entire books of their own. With that in mind, Women Heroes of World War II serves as the perfect primer for those seeking a great introduction to women's contributions in WWII.

Thankfully, Atwood treats some of the more disturbing outcomes of her heroines with a grace that will allow even more sensitive readers such as myself to continue. Still, some of the stories were so moving or unfortunate that they brought a tear to my eye. It is always difficult to read of broken families, tortures, murders and the like, no matter how gentle the treatment. But Atwood is brilliant in showing that despite the overwhelmingly dark situations these women found themselves in, their character, moral fortitude, and faith made their lives shine so brightly that we can still feel their warmth to this day.

Most outcomes are good, however. Each profile brings something new, unexpected, or even near miraculous. I found myself gut-wrenched at times, cheering at others, and sometimes just generally amazed. Atwood has taken my perception of women and their war time contributions from a merely national one to an international one. She skillfully illustrates that women abroad often fought two wars: one against the ruthless Germans, and the other against the sexism so deeply rooted in the culture of that day. Thankfully these wonderful women helped win both wars.

In Women Heroes of World War II, I feel like I got what could be called a "Band of Sisters". It's about a group of women not bound by a military brigade or battalion, but by the greater bond of a common moral code, one that impelled them to help those less fortunate than themselves and to sacrifice everything, even up to their very lives, for the sake of freedom. It is an excellent read.
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on 3 February 2014
An informative and well written book. Although aimed at the younger reader, it is suitable for all ages. Clearly explained without ever being patronising and immensely readable. The courage of these women was beyond belief and must never be forgotten.
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on 19 November 2013
I went into Kathryn Atwood's Women Heroes of World War II hoping the experience would leave me with the same fascination I experienced after watching HBO's excellent series Band of Brothers. While the book does deliver in that regard, in some ways I feel like I got so much more.

Atwood paints vivid stills of her twenty-six heroines, offering up generally their most significant wartime contributions as well as fascinating peeks into each woman's personality. Perhaps my favorite profile is that of Nora Inayat Khan, a petite and quite shy British resistance worker who failed miserably early on but came back to become one of the most fierce and determined women in the book. At one time, the once gentle girl fought violently with the unfortunate Nazi sympathizer sent to arrest her, clawing and scratching him so badly that he could only restrain her by putting a gun to her head.

Atwood's writing is straightforward and suitable for all ages, although it's clear that the adventure-style telling of most stories is designed for younger audiences. Some profiles wrap rather quickly, but this seems to be a byproduct of Atwood's desire to keep the book compact more than anything else. Each story could be (and often has been) expanded upon to form entire books of their own. With that in mind, Women Heroes of World War II serves as the perfect primer for those seeking a great introduction to women's contributions in WWII.

Thankfully, Atwood treats some of the more disturbing outcomes of her heroines with a grace that will allow even more sensitive readers such as myself to continue. Still, some of the stories were so moving or unfortunate that they brought a tear to my eye. It is always difficult to read of broken families, tortures, murders and the like, no matter how gentle the treatment. But Atwood is brilliant in showing that despite the overwhelmingly dark situations these women found themselves in, their character, moral fortitude, and faith made their lives shine so brightly that we can still feel their warmth to this day.

Most outcomes are good, however. Each profile brings something new, unexpected, or even near miraculous. I found myself gut-wrenched at times, cheering at others, and sometimes just generally amazed. Atwood has taken my perception of women and their war time contributions from a merely national one to an international one. She skillfully illustrates that women abroad often fought two wars: one against the ruthless Germans, and the other against the sexism so deeply rooted in the culture of that day. Thankfully these wonderful women helped win both wars.

In Women Heroes of World War II, I feel like I got what could be called a "Band of Sisters". It's about a group of women not bound by a military brigade or battalion, but by the greater bond of a common moral code, one that impelled them to help those less fortunate than themselves and to sacrifice everything, even up to their very lives, for the sake of freedom. It is an excellent read.
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on 6 May 2012
This book has been written in an easy format. With a lot of Fact books they delve too deep into dates and times etc, but this one is easy to "digest" without having to keep flicking back to check the timeline. Also the author has written each chapter concentrating on one Heroine in fine detail. I found it hard to put the book down. Well written.
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on 31 May 2013
Women Heroes of World War II is a marvelous book. As a British citizen living in the US I was both interested to read this book written by a US citizen (to see if the author could do the subject justice), and also glad to see a fresh perspective of WWII. I could not put the book down once I started it!

The book is about real people after all, and once you read their stories WWII becomes more real and personal somehow. The war was so long ago now, and it is not a subject that my children focus on, or know too much about. My grandparents fought in the war, and lived through it in Europe, and I want to pass those experiences on to my children. Women Heroes of WWII brings to life the horrors of the war, the worst of people, and the best of people. These things truly happened, the book helps us to remember that, and inspires us to share with our children the stories of these brave women.

The author does a fabulous job of grappling such a massive subject and concentrating it into a nifty introduction, followed by 26 inspiring stories of true heroism. Imagine the amount of information the author had to get her arms around to then craft it into such a fluid and easy to read book? Wow!

I recommend this book in the highest terms. It is suitable for many audiences. I was able to pull headlines from it to share with my young children, and will urge them to read it for themselves when they are older. Otherwise, the book is a suitable and fascinating read for anyone else. I loved it!
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on 9 January 2015
Absolutely love this collection of stories. It has made me want to find out more about these very brave women - and I mean brave.
This book should be incorporated into the History curriculum in schools! It is a wonderful read and would, I hope, inspire many children to want to find out more... Particularly enjoyed the piece on Noor Inayat Khan.
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on 12 March 2014
I recieved a copy of this from a Goodread giveaway but my review is all my own opinions! I was immediately pleased when I opened the book, to find that it was split into sections focusing on different countries. Every country has a different history and experience of WWII so I was glad to see that this book gives a broad spread of stories. Each chapter starts with a very useful and informative introduction to the role the particular country had in the war, and the major issues facing it. The rest is split into sub chapters, focusing on an individual heroic women from that country. I found the introductions very helpful in getting into the mindset of the women and in understanding their motives.
The stories of the women include photographs and a list of resources for further reading at the end. I feel this book would be a brilliant help in writing an essay, as the tales of the women are informative, but not too indepth, so the list of resources would be very helpful.
This book was very easy to read as the sections are not too long and easy to dip in and out of. I think it would suit the younger reader as there is not too much history or information as to be overwhelming, but what there is, is broken down into easy to understand chunks.
I am ashamed to say that I had not heard of many of these brilliant, courageous women or the separate struggles of their countries. I thank the author for keeping their stories alive and bringing them to a wider audience.
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