The Skylarks' War by Hilary McKay

Clarry and Peter lost their mother shortly after Clarry’s birth, more than a hundred years ago. Their father is a neglectful self-obsessed man so they grow up emotionally deprived but self-reliant. We see them through their childhood and into young adulthood find people, places and passions to nurture them. We meet Rupert, their charismatic cousin, Bonners (Simon Bonington) Peter’s school friend and Vanessa his sister.  Idyllic holidays to Cornwall fill their summers but war is looming.

McKay tells an old-fashioned tale coloured with the attitudes of the day in a traditional gentle writing style. Her distinctive characterization is brilliant but her powerful, pared back descriptions of the First World War, in contrast, hit the solar plexus. The creeping realization at home that their loved ones were experiencing unbelievable horrors is told with slow inexorable pacing. This is skilled storytelling that delivers.

This book would suit young teens, or adults, who enjoy a family saga. Many thanks to my colleague, Helene, who introduced me to Hilary McKay.

Submitted by Heather