The Skylarks' war by Hilary McKay
Macmillan Children's Books, 2018. ISBN: 9781509894949. 305 pages.
(Age: 10+) Recommended. Costa Book Award 2018. This book brings to mind the stories from earlier times. With shades of Jane Gardam's wonderful evocations of childhood, Sonya Harnett's The children of the king and Philippa Pearce's Tom's midnight garden, this wartime story tells of the loving relationship between three cousins growing up in Cornwall. Their summers leading up to the war are spent with fairly privileged grandparents; every day is a wonderful country experience. Once war comes, everything changes around them, and there is that deep sense of loss that now shadows their days. In particular, the reader learns so much about life at this time - domestic arrangements, boarding school accommodation, wartime communications, war service and essential volunteer work. Family dynamics are interesting with absent parents who still have high expectations of their children, and the young ones live with this day to day.
I really enjoyed this book. It is easy to connect to the children; their lives offer much to consider and Hilary McKay writes with a great understanding of childhood, aging and wartime Britain. She has previously won the Guardian Fiction Prize with The Exiles and the Smarties Prize for Exiles in Love.