The Red Ribbon Review

The Red Ribbon
by Lucy Adlington

Four of use Rose, Ella, Marta and Carla.
In another life, we might all have been friends together.
But this was Birchwood . . . Auschwitz-Birkenau.

As fourteen-year-old Ella begins her first day working in the prison camp, she steps into a world of silks and seams, lace, buttons and ribbons, Ella is a dressmaker, but this is no ordinary sewing workshop. Hers are no ordinary clients.

Every dress she makes could mean the difference between life and death . . . this room, this place, is all about survival.”

I saw Lucy on a panel at YALC last July, after hearing her speak I just had to go buy the book, so I ran to the Waterstones stand and bought The Red Ribbon. Then I queued to meet Lucy and she signed it for me, along with talking about historical fiction vs fantasy.

Ella has been taken while walking home from school, stripped, numbered, shaved and given stripes. She has the opportunity to work at the Upper Tailoring Studio, however to keep the job she has to compete with another prisoner.

Oh my gosh, this book is such an easy read, I could easily have read it in one sitting (if only I did not have to work or to move house). I honestly do not know what to say about this book other than go read it!

My favourite characters were Ella and Rose, although I did like Marta and Gerda even though they were bosses. I loved how the relationships changed and grew over time, and how they adapted depending on the circumstances. No one knows how you would react to something like the Holocaust but I would hope that I would be strong like Ella.

I am not sure I have one favourite bit, I love the last part with the twist, but I love a lot of the rest of the book, mostly the parts in the sewing room and the bunk. I liked how Ella described people as animals, it showed you straight away what they were like without too much description.

The Red Ribbon is tied up, but open enough that you can imagine what they get up to for the rest of their lives.

While reading this book, I described it as the story of the dressmakers of Auschwitz, which it is but it also isn’t. I would recommend this book for anyone (over the age of 9/10, depending on maturity). 5 out of 5.

The Red Ribbon





  • Storyline
  • Characters
  • First Person Narrative

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