The Dressmaker’s Daughter
Daniela is the daughter of a scholar and a seamstress in Yedinitz, Romania. In 1940, she is a young teen just on the cusp of pursuing her dream of studying medicine while also toying with a growing sense of her own sexuality.
Despite being raised by a pious mother, she begins a passionate love affair with her tutor. Mihail is a partisan and tries to warn her and her family of the coming Nazi terror. When the Nazis invade Romania before anyone expected them, Daniela is exposed to one brutality after another. She catches the eye of a Romanian Iron Guard, who forces her to become his mistress, but also saves her by sending her to work as a nurse for Romanian soldiers. One night, Mihail reappears and asks her to risk everything and join the partisans. While she ends up losing all she loved, she survives the war and plays a part in the partisan resistance.
While the premise and plot of the book drew me in, the execution was lacking. The first-person retrospective telling lacks immediacy and results in scenes that feel contrived. There are many incidences where the main character attempts to share broad context that she could not have known. We are told the facts of the story, but we do not feel along with the characters.
Despite the blunt telling of the story, it is one that is not well-known, and the historical relevance to current events makes it worthwhile reading for those interested in learning more about Romania during WWII. It should be noted that there are a number of very violent sexual assault scenes which could be triggering.