A heartrending coming-of-age novel set in a war-torn Europe, The Children’s War is subtle and romantic literary fiction at its best.
Ilse is only twelve years old when she begins to lose things. Her home. Her language. Her mother. Her name. Sent away from Nazi Germany, she flees first to Morocco and then to Paris, where she must keep her ailing father in hiding. As German troops tighten around the city, a harrowing escape to Marseilles puts her in the path of her guardian angel, a man in whom darkness and light are mingled in equal proportion. As the war drags on and Ilse leaves childhood behind, he draws her into the dangerous work of resisting the occupying force, and her heart is engaged in ways she can barely begin to understand.
Nicolai is the seven year old son of a Luftwaffe officer and his frivolous wife; the one light in his little world is his governess, a woman who he learns has had to send her own child away for fear of her life. The precocious Nicolai, a budding spy, teases out everything he can learn about this mystery daughter. But as the balance of Germany's war tips toward defeat, he must focus on the hardships closer to home – retrenching the coloured pins on his treasured battle maps as the bombers scream overhead.
Through the eyes of Ilse and Nicolai, the eternal yearning of the refugee comes to life as never before. Based on real events experienced by the author's family, ‘The Children’s War’ is a masterly and suspenseful novel that evokes Pat Barker and Michael Ondaatje; it is almost unbearably moving in its depiction of the fragile love that springs up between those who have nothing else to give.
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‘An intensely moving story.’ Daily Telegraph
‘Breathlessly suspenseful . . . Charlesworth uses two apparent opposites—a timid, sensitive Nazi boy, a bold, red-headed Jewish girl—as a way of exploring what good people have in common and how innocents learn to be decent in a world swarming with evil. She moves her story through fast, terrifying intricacies of plot: journeys, battles, smuggled papers, love affairs, carefully calculated loyalties, heroic sacrifices and endless duplicity . . . Charlesworth’s greatest success is to show how these children grow into morally mature adults, learning about treachery not just by seeing it around them, but by making difficult and sometimes terrible choices themselves . . . Engrossing.’ New York Times Book Review
‘Tender, shocking and beautifully written, The Children’s War marks Monique Charlesworth as a major talent.’ ImageFrom the Publisher:
Ilse is only twelve when she begins to lose things. Her home. Her language. Her name. As the Nazis tighten their hold on Germany and war grinds closer, her worried mother sends her into exile, fearing that Ilse's part-Jewish blood will place her in jeopardy. Her refugee life blows her across shifting borders: Morocco; Paris; Marseilles; always a step ahead of the occupying force, always longing to be rejoined with her beloved mother. A harrowing flight from Paris throws her in the path of a guardian angel, a dazzling and intense young soldier, Francois. As the war eats up the years, Francois draws her into the dangerous work of resisting the enemy. No longer a child, she finds her heart engaged in ways she can barely begin to understand. Told with beauty and power, A CHILDREN'S WAR is an epic story of the war that the historians never recorded.
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