There's nothing like a good book...a really good book...and THIS is a really GOOD book.
In THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE Ada and Jamie escaped both the anger in their mother and the bombings in London. Either one of these dangers could have taken their lives, especially Ada's with her clubfoot and the special rage her mother held for her. But out in the countryside Susan took them in and their lives began again.
Catching up with the two children in THE WAR I FINALLY WON we find Ada struggling with the emotions she holds caged inside herself and Jamie reaching out to accept his new mother, Susan, and embracing the wonder of the animals on the farms nearby.
World War II rages on. Lady Thornton offers them a cottage when Susan's house is destroyed. They move in and scrape together enough of the basic pots, pans, beds, sheets with the generosity of Lady Thornton.
The community where they live establishes a roster of fire-watchers which requires neighbors to climb into the church tower to spot fires in times of bombings. Their sharp eyes will direct the first responders as they arrive on the scene. Ada, Susan, Lady Thornton take their turns while Maggie is away at boarding school where her mother believes she will be safe.
Maggie and Ada are more sisters than friends now. A girl named Ruth has come to live with Susan. Susan teaches Ruth maths. Turns out Susan has a degree from Oxford and is quite brilliant. Ruth is German and Jewish. Her mother is in an internment camp in England and her grandmother is in a camp named Ravensbruck.
Maggie's mother, Lady Thornton, can barely tolerate Ruth's presence as Lady Thornton's son Jonathan is a pilot risking his life against the Germans. Food is scarce. Rationing is in full effect.
War is raging around them and war is also raging inside of each of them. Each character has battles, large and small. As the story unfolds, Ada realizes how many things she doesn't know. Are dragons real? Was she the reason her mother was so angry? Why did her mother hate her? Can Ada use her courage to open her heart to the love that Susan has for her?
Told from the first person point of view this is a brilliant story about the human heart, the limits of our psyches, the unimaginable courage we can summon when we are pushed to the edge and that little thing called hope that waits quietly and patiently until we choose to reach down inside and summon enough bravery to let it into our conscious minds and our everyday moments that will last for the rest of our lives.
This is Ada's story. This is the story of her internal war as she slowly pieces together the feelings and beliefs she holds about herself from her past. What has she always thought of herself because of how her mother talked to her and treated her? What has she learned and believed about the world?
How is that self-image being challenged now as she begins to stretch herself out and begins to see herself in the mirror of how others see her in her new circumstances?
Utterly heartfelt, sensitive, wise to the wars we wage unseen by others, this is a lovely, hopeful story about relationships that matter, the gift we give others when we reveal our courage, and the power that lies in that ultimate magic...that thing called love.
385 pages 9780525429203 Ages 9-14
Recommended by: Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com