Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Book Review: Band of Sisters by Lauren Willig

Pages: 528
Pub. Date: March 2, 2021
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: The Ashford Affair, The English Wife,  
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "A scholarship girl from Brooklyn, Kate Moran thought she found a place among Smith’s Mayflower descendants, only to have her illusions dashed the summer after graduation. When charismatic alumna Betsy Rutherford delivers a rousing speech at the Smith College Club in April of 1917, looking for volunteers to help French civilians decimated by the German war machine, Kate is too busy earning her living to even think of taking up the call. But when her former best friend Emmeline Van Alden reaches out and begs her to take the place of a girl who had to drop out, Kate reluctantly agrees to join the new Smith College Relief Unit.  Four months later, Kate and seventeen other Smithies, including two trailblazing female doctors, set sail for France. The volunteers are armed with money, supplies, and good intentions—all of which immediately go astray. The chateau that was to be their headquarters is a half-burnt ruin. The villagers they meet are in desperate straits: women and children huddling in damp cellars, their crops destroyed and their wells poisoned.  Despite constant shelling from the Germans, French bureaucracy, and the threat of being ousted by the British army, the Smith volunteers bring welcome aid—and hope—to the region. But can they survive their own differences? As they cope with the hardships and terrors of the war, Kate and her colleagues find themselves navigating old rivalries and new betrayals which threaten the very existence of the Unit.  With the Germans threatening to break through the lines, can the Smith Unit pull together and be truly a band of sisters?"


The year is 1917 and Kate Moran attends Smith College.  Kate isn't your average Smith College student though as she is there on scholarship.  Kate gets an opportunity to travel to France to help villagers pick their lives back up after the war.  The Germans have decimated many French towns and could obviously use any help they can get.  Kate has this opportunity thanks to her friend, Emmie Van Alden, who begs her to attend in place of another woman who dropped out.  When they arrive, things aren't as they thought and the women have to rough it a bit, which is a shock to most of  them as they come from privileged backgrounds.  Nonetheless, it is not about the Smith College women; they are there to help the locals with everything from medical care to their educational needs.  Lauren Willig's Band of Sisters is a decent historical read based on a true story about the Smith College women and their experiences in France.

Willig did a good job painting a picture of what the Smith College women were like in Band of Sisters.  This book is very well-researched and based on true events. The women's experiences in France end up being an eye-opener for them. Not only do they have to live in a very basic way, they also are aware of the French villagers and how their way of life has been disrupted tremendously.  Crops are destroyed, children are in need, and the communities are all around very deprived. This truly is a learning experience for the women as well as a life-changing one.  Keep in mind, these are everyday college women that have stepped up to help others and quite frankly, it's inspirational.  Band of Sisters is great book to read for Women's History Month.

Things start to get stressful when the German army is once again headed their way.  When things get challenging, one thing the women can count on is their friendship and the support amongst the women, whether they have had their disagreements or not.  I really appreciated this aspect of the novel as these women are unsung American heroes and I am glad Willig told their story.

My only issue with Band of Sisters was the lack of emotional punch. Most WWI and WWII novels really captivate me and usually tug on my heartstrings. I wasn't as emotionally invested in the story as I would have expected. In fact, Willig's writing style is hit or miss for me as I tend to prefer her collaborations with Beatriz Williams and Karen White.  However, if you are tired of WWII novels and want a change of pace and are interested in WWI's unsung (and everyday!) heroes, definitely give Band of Sisters a try this spring.  

Are you a fan of Lauren Willig? Is this novel on your TBR list? What is your favorite novel about WWI? Let me know in the comments below. 



  1. I love reading about women's contribution in the wars, but I'm sad this lacked emotion. I agree, that these book typically are emotionally-wrought which lends to the effectiveness of the story. That's too bad.

    1. Yes, this didn't have that emotional punch like some of the others. I agree--I enjoyed learning about the Smith College women though. Thanks for visiting, Joy!

  2. I think Lauren Willig is the only member of Team W I haven't read separately yet. I like the focus on college-educated women and their role in WWI.

    1. Me too. I enjoyed learning more about them and their contributions. You'll have to let me know your thoughts if you read this! Thanks for dropping by!


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