I was very excited to read this book as I’m a great fan of John Boyne’s books! I just loved the title, and had high expectations for the rest of the novel.
It didn’t disappoint! The story centers around Alfie during the First World War in London. One day when shoeshining near Kings Cross, he finds out his father is not on some kind of secret mission in France, but in a hospital.
This is said to be a novel for younger readers, and indeed Alfie is just nine years old. It reads a bit like The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, but Alfie is less naive. But it is, in my humble opinion, very good readable for older readers.The story tells about the people who don’t go off to war but stay behind. The story is touching, and on the other hand it also shows some more troublesome parts from the First World War, like the deportation of ‘Germans’ to the Isle of Man, (abuse of) conchies and the (partial) denial of Shellshock syndrome.
What I also really liked, – I’ve mentioned it before in my other reviews of his books – is the references John Boyne puts in it to his other books.In this book The Absolutist is referenced, another wonderful novel about the First World War…
(Spoilers for The Absolutist in the following section)
In one of his letters home Georgie tells about a German boy being shot after he already surrendered, one of the main events in The Absolutionist. It’s a subtle reference, (as you won’t have a clue if you haven’t read the book), but you’ll definitely get it if you read the book…
With the First World War turning 100 years this year, I think this is a wonderful book on a not so often featured part of war: the people who stay behind, (they may not have to fight with guns, but they have their own war to fight).
I would definitely recommend this book to everyone!
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Stay Where You Are and The Leave – John Boyne