Review Blog

Jan 24 2012

Eli the good by Silas House

cover image

Candlewick, 2011. ISBN: 9780763652883.
Set in the United States, in the summer of 1976, this is a novel about the ongoing impact of the Vietnam war for returned veterans and their families. Told through the eyes of ten year old Eli, the novel opens with 'The first true day of summer for me began with a scream . . . ' pg 4. It is his father screaming in his sleep after travelling back to Vietnam in his dreams.
Eli's Mum is a science teacher whose love for her husband and family makes a big difference in their lives. Eli's older sister Josie is at the difficult teenage stage. She is always complaining, even about her adoring boyfriend Charles. She has an ongoing dispute with her mother about wearing shorts that have an American flag printed on them.
Eli's Aunt Nell arrives with her records and record player to live with the family. Nell's participation in an anti Vietnam protest and the publicity it received is a source of ongoing tension with her brother. Eli overhears that Aunt Nell has cancer and this secret adds to the poignancy of her time with the family.
 Eli's best friend is Edie, the girl next door, and it is with her that he secretly reads the letters his father wrote to his mother from Vietnam. The other secret that Edie discovers is that his sister Josie has a different father to him.
So while this novel is set in a particular time and place, the United States in the 70's; the themes of teenage angst, family conflict, war, betrayal and ultimately the difference that love and committment can make are themes that are universal. A good read.
Jenny Brisbane

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