Deftly interweaving humor and heart, McKay crafts an intricate novel exploring the overlapping realms of family, friendship, and romantic love in early-20th-century England. Since clever Clarry’s mother died soon after she was born, Clarry and her disgruntled older brother, Peter, have lived with their aloof, dour father, who believes that girls don’t deserve education and criticizes Peter for sharing his books with his sister. Sent to boarding school against his will, Peter befriends Simon, a sensitive loner who likewise struggles to discover where he belongs. As she did in her books starring the eccentric Casson family and irrepressible Binny, the author introduces credible, memorable characters whom readers will readily embrace. The novel’s most dazzling personalities, though, belong to Simon’s impulsive and big-hearted sister, Vanessa, who nurses injured soldiers after WWI breaks out, and Clarry and Peter’s charismatic cousin, Rupert, who ships out to France with the British army and is wounded at the front. The characters’ intricate relationships and deep bonds give unusual emotional ballast to the story, which provides a poignant portrait of an era and a war “where absolutely nothing made sense” and of teens catapulted prematurely into adulthood. Ages 10–14. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 11/05/2018 Release date: 09/18/2018 Genre: Children's
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