Book Review: Within These Walls Of Sorrow

18 Jan

I visited Krakow in the spring of 2018. Poland is such a wonderful place — the people are friendly, the city is beautiful, the food is amazing. And history surrounds the visitor. We walked through the old Jewish sector which after WWII houses no Jews despite a large synagogue and vibrant Jewish and Israeli restaurants. We toured Shindler’s factory and marveled at how he saved so many people. We walked in silence through the gates of Auschwitz and among the bombed crematories of Birkenau. Our trip was memorable for many reasons, and I am very glad I was able to travel there. Then I read Within These Walls of Sorrow by Amanda Barratt. It was almost like a return visit, but this time I walked the streets of Krakow and entered the buildings of the concentration camps with friends who lived through the era and ordeal. If you are a reader, you know how characters can become real, and, yes, like cherished friends. This book is amazing and very highly recommended.

“This tense WWII historical from Barratt (My Dearest Dietrich) follows a woman’s efforts to help her neighbors survive the Kraków ghetto. . . . Moving and effective, this inspirational finds light in the darkest of places.”–Publishers Weekly


Zosia Lewandowska knows the brutal realities of war all too well. Within weeks of Germany’s invasion of her Polish homeland, she lost the man she loves. As ghetto walls rise and the occupiers tighten their grip on the city of Krakow, Zosia joins pharmacist Tadeusz Pankiewicz and his staff in the heart of the Krakow ghetto as they risk their lives to aid the Jewish people trapped by Nazi oppression. 

Hania Silverman’s carefree girlhood is shattered as her family is forced into the ghetto. Struggling to survive in a world hemmed in by walls and rife with cruelty and despair, she encounters Zosia, her former neighbor, at the pharmacy. As deportation winnow the ghetto’s population and snatch those she holds dear, Hania’s natural resiliency is exhausted by reality. 
Zodia and Hania’s lives intertwine as they face the griefs and fears thrust upon them by war, until one day, they are forced to make a desperate choice . . . one that will inexorably bind them together, even as they are torn apart. 

Amanda Barratt’s meticulous research and lush, award-winning writing shine once again in this moving look at a group of unsung heroes who fought for hope and humanity in the most harrowing of times. 

ECPA best-selling author Amanda Barratt fell in love with writing in grade school when she wrote her first story—a spin-off of Jane Eyre. Now, Amanda writes romantic, historical fiction, penning stories of beauty and brokenness set against the backdrop of bygone eras not so very different from our own. She’s the author of over a dozen novels and novellas including The White Rose Resists: A Novel of the German Students Who Defied Hitler and My Dearest Dietrich: A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love.

Amanda lives in the woods of Michigan with her family, where she can be found reading way too many books, plotting her next novel, and jotting down imaginary travel itineraries for her dream vacation to Europe.

Connect with her on Facebook and visit her online at amandabarratt.net.

My Impressions:

I can start off by saying that Within These Walls of Sorrow by Amanda Barratt is one of the best books I have ever read. Not an exaggeration, this novel is so well-researched that the time and place of the book came to life for me. A few years ago I visited Krakow, the setting of the book, and this novel brought back all those images and memories. But this time I felt like I lived alongside the characters. That’s an amazing thing to experience, but also heartbreaking because of the subject matter — the Krakow Ghetto and the Nazi plans for exterminating the Jews. The author details this honestly and realistically. I admit I had to pause my reading in order not to be overcome by the cruelty depicted. Yet, Barratt shines a light in all the darkness with her characters’ love and sacrifice and their faltering, yet continuing faith. The historical detail is key to the novel, but the characterization is what makes this book a 5-star. Many historical figures make their appearances on the pages, including the owner and employees of the Pharmacy Under The Eagle, the Polish-owned pharmacy the Nazi’s uncharacteristically let continue within the walls of Krakow’s ghetto. But the two mains, Zosia and Hania, are fictional, although influenced by the those who lived during these dark days. I won’t go into those things that the characters faced, but just say that the indomitable spirit that helped them survive is a testament to the real people they are based upon. The novel takes the reader from the early days of the Nazi occupation with the beginnings of persecution, through the increasing danger and the plans the Nazi put in place, to the aftermath of the war when those who survived are faced with living with extreme losses and their own futures. Within These Walls of Sorrow will make you think all along the way — would I have succumbed to despair, would I have rallied to face death with dignity, would I have turned a blind eye to what other people were going through? Long after the last page was turned, I continued to ask myself questions that examined what I believe and what I live.

Within These Walls of Sorrow is a must-read. Be prepared to be shocked, but also be prepared to be changed. I also recommend you read this book with someone — you will need to talk about it.

Very Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to Kregel for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

2 Responses to “Book Review: Within These Walls Of Sorrow”

  1. Barbara Harper January 18, 2023 at 9:34 am #

    What a neat opportunity you had to visit Poland! This sounds like a great book.

  2. Stephanie January 18, 2023 at 1:11 pm #

    This sounds like a great story!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: