The War at Home

27 Jun

Unknown

Tomorrow we mark the event that set the dominoes of the First World War in motion: the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

In John Boyne’s Stay Where You Are & Then You Leave,  we see the effects of war throughout the eyes of you Alfie Summerfield. He’s only 5 at the beginning of the book and 9 by the end, but John Boyne really captures how a boy of that age would view and understand the world and the crazy event going on around him. I love that he thins at 21 he’ll need glasses to read and will want to go to bed early because he’s so tired.

This is the best of what historical fiction should be: details woven into the fabric of the story so naturally we don’t even realize that they are historical facts. We get a real glimpse of what life was like for people left at home and the consequences the war had on society. We learn about shortages, deportations, conscientious objectors, white feathers and shell shock.

Alfie’s father went off to war. At first the letters were funny, then serious, then confused. Then they stopped. Alfie’s mother tells him his dad is on a secret mission, but Alfie thinks his dad is dead. While working as a shoeshine big, Alfie comes across some information that set him on a secret mission of his own to rescue his dad.

This book is a real gem. It was more like Michael Morpurgo’s  War Horse than Boyne’s most famous book,  The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.  It would be an excellent novel to read as kids learn about WWI.

Alas, I couldn’t help but do the math. Alfie  is 9 in 1918. That means he’ll be 30 in 1939 when the next World war breaks out. It broke my heart to think about that. The fact that I care is a testament to the quality of the writing that created the character of Alfie.

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