The Red Ribbon by Lucy Adlington
Published by Allen & Unwin
Date: 25 October 2017
Dear Ella and Rose
As you entered an unknown harrowing time where learning to survive was what consumed your everyday – I saw you both and I felt helpless that I could only listen to your story, but I was also hopeful. With every bit of anguish, aspirations that were stomped on, harsh words, abuse and longing for home, for the haven life used to be, my only hope was that you would be safe with no lasting mental or physical scars. The fear, the unknown of each new day, the starvation and mismatched shoes, the plain striped dress which earned you all the name stripey made me ache, especially when I saw it slowly etching away at you both, trying to break you down.
Ella, I felt happiness for you while you were designing, sewing, creating at Birchwood. Seeing you touching silks, the sewing machine and the glide of the scissors through the fabric, knowing that was one thing keeping you stronger than you felt. Your determination, your strength, your Liberation dress, the Red Ribbon and all that it represented, saw me believing in your future and that with time you would be ok, even if the war broke you before getting there.
Rose, your imagination and storytelling was the glue that kept so many people alive, you helped them remember by reminding the other women around you that “You don’t really forget. All the memories go somewhere safe, I promise.” Those simple words gave people something to hold onto, especially Ella. Your selflessness was moving , your ability to believe in good regardless of how bad things got is something to be inspired by. Your fight to the very end, and your ongoing love and support to Ella created a bond of friendship so rare and lasting.
Ella, you trusted so many people around you that when they failed you and took pieces of you, your ability to understand why left scars so deep. It also made you stronger and more determined to be there for Liberation and to do it in style. You grew bolder and stronger in the face of adversity and I aspired to have your tenacity and self belief.
There is so much that I want to say to you both because your stories captured my soul and took it on a journey like no other. I want to say that I could picture your sewing, the embroidery and the other girls who became part of you life at Birchwood. I felt the anger and survival mode when we first met you Ella, I saw the light of Rose breaking you down and finding a place in your heart.
Most of all, I will never forget you both, how you learnt to survive, and how you managed to find beauty during a dark and grey time.
With heartfelt love
P.S. This book has been compared to The Boy in Striped Pyjamas and The Diary of Anne Frank, but I belief this sits in a pocket of its own.
P.S.S. Thank you to Allen & Unwin|Bonnier for the opportunity to read and review this book honestly.