I loved this book.
It’s one of those books where no matter what I write in this review, all I really want to write is that – I loved it.
You know that feeling when you can’t put a book down, but at the same time really don’t want to reach the end?! And then when you do finish it and desperately want *something* to follow them with but have no idea what that is or how you can? That. I’ve since read 3 or 4 other books, but I’m still lingering on this one and I still haven’t quite found what I want to read to follow it up with suitably.
Clarry and her older brother Peter live for their summers in Cornwall, staying with their grandparents and running free with their charismatic cousin, Rupert. But normal life resumes each September – boarding school for Peter and Rupert, and a boring life for Clarry at home with her absent father, as the shadow of a terrible war looms ever closer.
When Rupert goes off to fight at the front, Clarry feels their skylark summers are finally slipping away from them. Can their family survive this fearful war?
While I can think of many books set in the times of the second World War, those based in WW1 seem much less common. Due for release in November, this is perfectly timed to commemorate the centenary of the first World War, and – in my opinion – is a beautiful way of marking it. Sensitively highlighting the stark contrast between the perceptions and realities of what it meant to join the war effort, this is a book which handles the grit, despair and hardships of war with a delicate but incredibly powerful touch. Rather than being a sudden, overnight drama which takes over the story, there is a real subtlety to the way the war is portrayed as it gradually creeps into the lives of the different characters; it shows so well how it affects the everyday lives of different people, as well as the effects it has on those who go to fight.
Similarly, while this is a story about war, it is much more than that. It is a story of family and friendship, of pursuing dreams and tackling challenges, of growing up and facing change, of love and loss. It is a story of times gone by, with characters earnestly looking to the future.
And it is the characters which really bring the story to life. From the detachment of Peter and Clarry’s father to the rambunctious Rupert and everyone in between, the variety in the characters gives the book a brilliant balance. All of them are incredibly well-drawn, with real depth and detail: their relationships described with real understanding and warmth; the internal struggles they were facing obvious without them having to be spelt out; their flaws weren’t sugar-coated nor magicked away by the end. I loved seeing them all grow throughout the book, and felt like I didn’t want to leave them by the end.
This is a book written with an evocative, old-fashioned charm and with both settings and events which are very much of their time – it should have massive appeal to fans of historical children’s fiction, particularly wartime stories. It is also a book filled with characters and situations that are still incredibly relatable now. At times heart-wrenching, warm, and full of humour – I can’t deny there may have been a tear or two, but there was also a lot of laughter and silent cheers of joy for the characters and their triumphs. Like I said at the start, I loved it (and I’ve passed it straight on to my mum, because I know she’s going to love it too!)