Whilst the First World War has ended, people are still bearing the scars and when Natty moves to a Welsh village she meets two young soldiers who are struggling to adjust to post-war life. Huw is unable to forget the terrors he has seen whilst Johnny is unable to recall anything, even who he really is. As Natty settles into her new life she finds herself trying to keep a secret, having to unravel a mystery and learning to fight for what she truly believes in…
Set in rural Wales in the 1920’s, When the War Came Home is a beautifully crafted work of historical fiction from Lesley Parr whose debut, The Valley of Lost Secrets, immediately catapulted her into the same echelons as Emma Carroll (widely known as the Queen of historical fiction).
With a wonderful Welsh flavour, Parr brings to young readers a period of time that is rarely written about in children’s books with soldiers returning home from war and women fighting for equal rights on the back of the suffragette movement; bullies need to be beaten, hearts and minds need to be healed. In a story bursting with family, friendship, love, hope and determination, anything is possible. Characters that you genuinely care about and a beautiful ending that will have you reaching for the tissues make Lesley Parr’s second book an essential read.
A stirring and emotional story honestly explores the effects of the war on those brave and courageous souls that fought in the trenches and lived to return home. Only they never fully returned home, the men that left came back changed, different, parts of them remained on the battlefield, parts of them lost forever, the scars of war, the horrors, unable to be unseen. Running throughout are challenging themes of PTSD, amnesia and mental health. These are complex and sensitive yet readers are in safe hands as with Parr as expert guide children are invited to understand and to empathise.
Lightening the mood are two fabulous young girls in Natty and Nerys, the new roommates slowly forging a friendship that is ready to take on the world. Despite being very frustrated at the new living situation that she solely blames on her mother, Natty is an absolute star. Feisty, hot-tempered, a little fire-cracker who as much as she would hate to admit it is very much like her mum. Both are born to fight for others but Natty doesn’t know it yet and resents her revolutionary mother for her outspoken views that always cause trouble. Fiercely determined to help the young soldiers, Natty also finds herself as a leading charge in a social justice campaign at the local school where children are poorly treated by a horrible headmaster and are in desperate need of a decent school meal. With her lively cousin Nerys bringing plenty of energy and spirit, Natty realises the difference that she can make to the lives of individuals and the community and that people power can overcome hopelessness.
Raw, heartfelt and full of important themes - including poverty, unemployment and grief - When the War Came Home is ultimately a story of overcoming the past, the strength of the human spirit to heal and the possibility of brighter days. A compulsive read that I highly recommend enjoying with a nice serving of fish and chips.
With huge thanks to Bloomsbury for the copy I received in exchange for an honest review.
Recommended for 9+.