I have now read three of Boyne’s books for children and none of his adult books. I don’t know why this has happened, but I am here to tell you that if you haven’t read any of his kids’ books yet, you should. I’ve also read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (many years ago) and The Boy at the Top of the Mountain (probably my favourite – my review).
Stay Where You Are and Then Leave is about a boy whose father goes away to fight in the war (WWI), and is gone for almost 4 years. At first there are many letters from him that he reads with his mother, but one day the letters stop. His mother tells him his father has gone on a secret mission and isn’t able to write letters anymore, but the boy begins to suspect that his mother is hiding something. He takes it on himself to investigate.
He’d done it for the best reason in the world. For love.
This story explores the terrible reality of PTSD in a gentle and engaging way. And, although this story takes place a hundred years ago, it is still something we are learning about and certainly something that many children have to contend with in their lives.
He hated it here. He hated this place and he hated these people. Being at this hospital was like stepping into the middle of a nightmare where nothing anyone said made any sense. The men were all confused, living partly in the present, partly in the past, and partly in some no man’s land that they marched across, trying to dodge bullets and failing, flailing, falling.
One of the parts I loved most was the story of the boy and his friend, Kalena, whose ambition was to be the Prime Minister one day. Everyone he tells this to scoffs or chuckles at it, but the boy defends his friend every time.
Two years ago I read my first Maggie O’Farrell and loved it. So I was excited when I found another one of her books at a thrift store a few months ago – just in time for March!
I suspect many of you have already read it, so I’ll be brief. The book starts out with Alice going to Edinburgh to visit her sisters on a whim. While she’s there she sees something so disturbing that she gets back on the train home again, leaving her sisters dumbfounded. Once back in London, she steps off the curb into traffic. As family and friends speculate as to whether or not she stepped off the curb purposely, Alice lies in a coma.
Alice sometimes worries that she might lose her grip on life. Like the fear that your hand might suddenly veer out of control when you are writing your signature fro the millionth time on a credit card slip, she can occasionally see how easily something in her could break and she’d be left spinning in a limbo of panic and disorder.
The rest of the book is made up of fragments; pieces of her past mixed with snippets of her mother and grandmother’s stories. As her family come to sit by her side and stay at her house we begin to put together all the pieces of her life that led to this moment. Sometimes it was what I thought, and sometimes it wasn’t.
At the point where Alice’s clothes meet John’s, a red slip dress hangs next to a blue cotton shirt, slightly crumpled. It makes Ann cry, their clothes hanging together like this, it makes her cry a lot. And she’s not sure who she’s crying for: for her daughter, yes, the thought of whose death makes her feel like a glove pulled inside out on itself; … [avoiding a spoiler]…; and a part of her cries for herself, whose clothes would never hang like this with anyone’s.
Some readers might find the fragmented, patchwork structure too jumbled, but I like it. To me it makes the book feel more of a challenge and more rewarding.
I think it’s safe to say that I’ll be reading more from both of these authors… are there any of their books you particularly love? Or ones I should avoid?