The War I Finally Won, Book Review

I’m currently reading the insightful, researched, and devastating book Caste, The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson, and realize how much caste and hierarchy is present in The War I Finally Won, the 2017 sequel to The War That Saved My Life. Author Kimberly Brubaker Bradley doesn’t sugarcoat how people were seen and treated in WWII England, whether they were poor or wealthy, children or adults, single or married, Jews or Nazis, and soldiers or spies. One of the most refreshing things about the stories is that the target audience of 8-12 year olds isn’t patronized. Cruelty, physical and emotional pain, disability, sickness, war, and death, and grief are faced head on. So are understanding, acceptance, loyalty, friendship and love.

What’s the story about?

Ada and her younger brother, Jamie, now have a permanent home with their loving legal guardian, Susan Smith. Although Jamie adapts more easily, Ada still struggles with the aftermath of her old life, and how to fit into her new life.

World War II continues, and forces the small community to come together and rely on one another. Ada has never been interested in getting to know her friend’s family—especially Maggie’s mother, the formidable Lady Thorton. However, circumstances bring them in close proximity along with other unexpected characters.

Ada comes face to face with another German! This time she isn’t sure what she should do. How can she help the ones she loves and keep them safe?

Ada’s first story, The War that Saved My Life, won a Newbery Honor, the Schneider Family Book Award, and the Josette Frank Award, in addition to appearing on multiple best-of-the-year lists. This second, marvelous volume continues Ada’s powerful, uplifting story.  Goodreads

Quotes from The War I Finally Won

“Love isn’t as rare as you think it is…You can love all sorts of people, in all sorts of ways. Nor is love in any way dangerous.”

“People used to draw dragons on the edges of old maps. When the world hadn’t been fully explored, mapmakers imagined dragons living at the far ends.”

“Fear and what you did with it were two separate things.”

“I don’t want to have to feel grateful,” I said. Susan smiled. “I understand,” she said. “Do it anyhow.”

“I stored this information in my head in the bulging file titled “Things I Wished I Didn’t Know.” It included what it felt like to walk on a clubfoot for ten years, and what it sounded like to have your mother say she never wanted to see you again.”

“That’s your map of the past. What’s in the map of your future?” I stared at her. “What do you want?” she persisted. I had no idea. When I’d first been evacuated I’d wanted to be like the girl riding the pony, racing the train. Now I was. Parts of me were still jumbled—but maybe that girl had been jumbled too. I’d only seen her from the outside.”       Goodreads

The War That Saved My Life, Book Review

My family talks about books. My friends talk about books. And my  SCBWI critique group writes, edits, dissects, revises, and recommends books. Shout out to Kathy who suggested the Newbery Honor and multi-award winning middle grade historical fiction by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, The War That Saved My Life.

I found it interesting to read about efforts in England during WWII to Make Do and Mend while we were quarantining and making do and mending ourselves. At the same time I read about re-purposing fabric, my daughter and I were turning sheets into masks. While characters in the story found meat hard to come by, my butcher rationed his inventory. Fictional and real dinners were invented by using what was in the pantry.

War and quarantine efforts aside, it’s the main character’s struggle and strength in the face of cruelty and uncertainty that makes this story compelling and relatable on so many levels.

What the story about?

This #1 New York Times bestseller is an exceptionally moving story of triumph against all odds set during World War II. For fans of Counting by 7s and Sarah, Plain and Tall.

Ten-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.

So begins a new adventure for Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?                Amazon

Quotes from The War That Saved My Life

 

“There,” she said, smiling, her eyes soft and warm. “It’s perfect. Ada. You’re beautiful.” She was lying. She was lying, and I couldn’t bear it. I heard Mam’s voice shrieking in my head. “You ugly piece of rubbish! Filth and trash! No one wants you, with that ugly foot!” My hands started to shake. Rubbish. Filth. Trash. I could wear Maggie’s discards, or plain clothes from the shops, but not this, not this beautiful dress.

“All the words in the world are made up of just twenty-six letters,” she said. “There’s a big and a little version of each.” She wrote the letters out on the paper, and named them all. Then she went through them again. Then she told me to copy them onto another piece of paper, and then she went back to her chair. I stared at the paper. I said, “This isn’t reading. This is drawing.” “Writing,” she corrected. “It’s like buttons and hems. You’ve got to learn those before you can sew on the machine. You’ve got to know your letters before you can read.”

I knew ponies from the lane but had only seen them pull carts. I hadn’t known you could ride them. I hadn’t known they could go so fast. The girl leaned forward against the pony’s flying mane. I saw a stone wall ahead of them. I gasped. They were going to hit it. They were going to be hurt. Why didn’t she stop the pony? They jumped it. They jumped the stone wall, and kept running, while the train tracks turned away from their field. Suddenly I could feel it, the running, the jump. The smoothness, the flying—I recognized it with my whole body, as though it was something I’d done a hundred times before. Something I loved to do. I tapped the window. “I’m going to do that,” I said.”

“It had been awful, but I hadn’t quit. I had persisted. In battle I had won.”

Sequel:  The War I Finally Won