Summary from Goodreads
Rose, Ella, Marta and Carla. In another life we might have all been friends together. But this was Birchwood.
As fourteen-year-old Ella begins her first day at work she steps into a world of silks, seams, scissors, pins, hems and trimmings. She is a dressmaker, but this is no ordinary sewing workshop. Hers are no ordinary clients. Ella has joined the seamstresses of Birkenau-Auschwitz.
Every dress she makes could be the difference between life and death. And this place is all about survival.
Ella seeks refuge from this reality, and from haunting memories, in her work and in the world of fashion and fabrics. She is faced with painful decisions about how far she is prepared to go to survive.
Is her love of clothes and creativity nothing more than collaboration wth her captors, or is it a means of staying alive?
Will she fight for herself alone, or will she trust the importance of an ever-deepening friendship with Rose?
One thing weaves through the colours of couture gowns and camp mud – a red ribbon, given to Ella as a symbol of hope.
Us v. Them
“I just hated the way some people had to shove others into a box with a label and say you’re different. Once you’re labelled ‘different’ people can treat you as if you don’t matter. Which is stupid. I wasn’t a badge or a number. I was Ella.”
I used to play Sunday League football. What I loved best wasn’t the winter rain lashing down on a muddy pitch, the pain of being whacked by the ball, or even the exhilaration of scoring a goal. It was being part of a team.
Humans are pretty tribal. We quickly form connections and make allies. We like to feel we belong. However, as soon as you form a group of Us everyone else becomes Them. The Other. Up to a point that’s probably healthy.
What made me uncomfortable about football was the way the other team became The Enemy. Yes, I wanted to win. Yes, I was loyal to my own fabulous bunch of team-mates, but I also recognised that the 11 players opposite were basically just us really, in different shirts.
Taken to the ultimate extreme, tribalism leads to bullying, discrimination, violence and genocide.
My novel The Red Ribbon is set in a time and place when mass murder has become part of government policy, with groups of people labelled ‘surplus to requirements.’ My hero, Ella, has to fight to assert herself and her own precious individuality in a world where she’d considered so ‘other’ she’s not even human.
My story is fiction. It is based on fact. On history. The dangers of treating people as inferior because they’re not ‘us’ are still a reality in our world.
As for Sunday League soccer, at the end of the match we’d rub compare bruises and go eat pie and chips together. No longer Us v. Them… mostly Us. Just how it should be.
About the Author
Lucy Adlington is a writer, actress and costume historian. Her novels for teenagers, written under the name L. J. Adlington, including The Diary of Pelly-D and Burning Mountain, have been nominated and/or shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal, the Manchester Book Prize, the Leeds Book Prize and the Rotherham Book Award. She also writes non-fiction for adults about the history of clothes, including Great War Fashion and Stitches in Time: The Story of the Clothes We Wear. She founded the historical costume events company, History Wardrobe, has appeared on BBC Woman’s Hour discussing the history of underwear and she lives on a working farm in Yorkshire. She is currently writing a non-fiction book about women in the 1940s.