Breathe by Sara Fujimura

Breathe is a YA novel but after the first chapter or two reads more like an adult historical novel. It takes place during WWI but it is mostly focused on the United States and the 1918 flu pandemic. Virginia is the daughter of a doctor and aspires to be a doctor herself. She is from a wealthy family in Philadelphia.

Her mother would prefer she do the traditional thing and marry someone of her social class. Virginia falls for Marco, the family’s driver. Marco is also her father’s medical assistant, who aspires to go to college and become a surgeon. Marco is the son of Italian immigrants.

Medical issues of patients are explained in vivid detail. This aspect may be too intense for squeamish readers. Class and ethnic prejudices of the period plays a part in the novel. Fujimura shows this without making it heavy handed.

Breathe also touches on the Suffrage movement. Virginia’s rebellious older sister, Kit, is involved with that movement. Gender role limitations of the time are explored, including a well-done plot twist with Kit and Virginia’s mother. I was drawn to the novel, because I find that period fascinating. As my high school history teacher said, “the modern world was created by WWI”.

At the end of the novel, I found myself wishing for a sequel, wanting to know how their lives turned out twenty or thirty years from then. Strongly recommended.

– Review by Keri, Main Library


Editor’s note: While we do not have this particular title in the Library’s catalog at this time, we do have other titles by Fuijimara that are available.