Originally posted on my previous blog – this review has been edited for spelling mistakes/clarity.
It’s four years since Alfie’s dad promised he wouldn’t fight in the war, and then the following day broke that promise. Alfie has no idea where his father is, making him think he’s on a secret mission. This is until Alfie is shining shoes one morning at King’s Cross for a military doctor when he sees his father’s name in some dropped papers. Alfie is determined to rescue his father and bring him home finally.
This was one of the last books I read while I was at Waterstones as a proof and wow, it was worth it!
I opened to the first page expecting another version of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, yet set in the shadow of the First World War, definitely expecting something that would make me cry. Yet I was pleasantly surprised! While there is the child narration that characterises Boyne’s most famous work, there is also an element of mystery and adventure that runs throughout as Alfie tries to find his father. There is something so powerful about Boyne’s writing as he illustrates a world that is vastly different from now. The narration seems so innocent and simple, yet he makes you read between the lines in a way that is incredibly hard to do in some books with child narrators.
A lot of books set in this period normally go two ways: either they are set trenches and show the harsh reality for the soldiers fighting for their country, or they romantise the First World War a little showing those left at home. This book does neither and show a stark portrayal through the eyes of an intelligent, scared young boy and illustrate the true life of those left behind by the soldiers at war.
This is a book that leaves you with hope and warmth, surprising for a book set in the shadow of war. Yet, there is the shadow of the Second World War looming that Boyne eludes to where, with a quick calculation, many readers will know Alfie will be in his late 20’s by then and probably fighting. This is a brilliant book, and I really, really hope that this gets the attention that is deserves.
I give it a 5 out of 5