Review Blog

Oct 21 2008

War's end by Victoria Bowen

cover image

Random House, 2008. ISBN 978174166662

(Age 12+) Gradually waking in a bed not her own, and surrounded by shadows which flit back and forth, it takes a long time for Nell to realise that she is in a hospital. Relegated to a back room, she waits for her father to come and get her, in the mean time helping the overworked nurses as they scurry between the overload of patients.  

Nell has been hospitalized with Spanish Flu. It is 1919. The Great War has ended, with disease making its way around the world, killing more people than all the years of the war. When her father finally comes to pick her up, the two are estranged and the trip home on the train with her grandfather and father is unsettling. Throughout the trip conversations between the threesome reveal the suffering of the father away at war and the despair of those left back home. Stories which many have had as children suffuse the story, making it all the more accessible to the intended audience. And these stories are some which are behind Nell's silence with her father.

Bowen includes a great deal of historical information, and while most is relevant and quietly part of the story, some is more obvious, as when Nell's father talks about his time in France. But the novel tells a strong story with a likeable main character who carries the plot along. Students interested in this unexpected ending of World War One, will be intrigued and involved along with Nell as she makes her peace with her father.
Fran Knight

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