Can love survive a lifetime? When working-class Clem Ackroyd falls for Frankie Mortimer, the gorgeous daughter of a wealthy local landowner, he has no hope that it can. After all, the world teeters on the brink of war, and bombs could rain down any minute over the bleak English countryside - just as they did seventeen years ago as his mother, pregnant with him, tended her garden. This time, Clem may not survive. Told in cinematic style by acclaimed writer Mal Peet, this brilliant coming-of-age novel is a gripping family portrait that interweaves the stories of three generations and the terrifying crises that define them. With its urgent sense of history, sweeping emotion, and winning young narrator, Mal Peet's latest is an unforgettable, timely exploration of life during wartime. (Ages 14+)
Norfolk, early March, 1945
Ruth AckRoyd was in the garden checking the
rhubarb when the RAF Spitfire accidentally shot her
chimney-pot to bits. The shock of it brought the baby on
three weeks early.
"I was expectun," she'd often say, over the years. "But I wunt expectun that."
She'd had cravings throughout her pregnancy, ambitious ones: tinned ham, chocolate, potted shrimps, her husband's touch, rhubarb. Rhubarb was possible though. Ruth and her mother, Win, grew it in the cottage garden. They forced it; which is to say they covered the plants with upended buckets so that when new tendrils poked through the soil, they found themselves in the dark and grew like mad, groping for light. Stalks of forced rhubarb were soft, blushed and stringless. You could eat them without sugar, which was rationed, and Ruth wanted to. So she'd waddled out into the garden on a rare day of early-spring sunshine to lift the buckets and see how things were doing. See if there ...
Mal Peet manages to convince readers, just as Clem and Frankie are convinced, that the force of young love is every bit as powerful as the forces that can destroy - or preserve - the world. So is Peet's novel for adults or for teens? In the end it doesn't really matter. This novel - about the patterns of war and peace, about the forces that propel humans to wage war or to pursue reconciliation, about the impulse to create as well as destroy - will speak, like any good story, to perceptive, thoughtful readers, whatever their age.
(Reviewed by Norah Piehl).
Full Review (970 words).
For thirteen days in October 1962, the world was on the brink of nuclear war. U.S. spy planes had detected what appeared to be nuclear missile sites being built on the island of Cuba, just ninety miles off the coast of Florida. Soviet ships, originally designed to carry cargo such as lumber or food, had been outfitted to transport nuclear warheads to their ally in the Caribbean.
President John F. Kennedy was caught between two groups of advisers: the Hawks, who advocated making an immediate and aggressive strike against Cuba, and the Doves, who recommended taking a less antagonistic approach. Kennedy, who was younger and less experienced than his senior advisers, chose an unpopular plan: to set up a blockade, or "quarantine," ...
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