On the Bookshelf...

After The War

Tom Palmer

Summer 1945. The Second World War is finally over and Yossi, Leo and Mordecai are among three hundred children who arrive in the English Lake District. Having survived the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps, they've finally reached a place of safety and peace, where they can hopefully begin to recover. But Yossi is haunted by thoughts of his missing father and disturbed by terrible nightmares. As he waits desperately for news from home, he fears that Mordecai and Leo - the closest thing to family he has left - will move on without him. Will life by the beautiful Lake Windermere be enough to bring hope back into all their lives?

Tom Palmer is one of the hottest names in children's/YA fiction. He writes stories that young people can instantly relate to. After The War is a case in point. It tells the story of the 'Windermere refugees' who were brought to England from Germany after the Second World War. It's a book with many facades, how they managed to fit in, their deep suspicion that once again they'd have it snatched from them again. A deeply human story, it has so many parallels to modern life.

It's an easy read, part of the Barrington Stoke imprint. The language used is at a level that most children will have no difficulty reading and understanding. It doesn't preach a philosophy but allows the reader to make up their own minds about the situation. Yet at times it's a harrowing read. It's heartbreaking that they feel that even the food from their plates will be stolen and leave them hungry. It shows how their experience in the concentration camps has made them distrust adults.

Throughout the book though is hope and compassion. A community that had little in the way of food, manages to give generously to these children of the war. I can't imagine how it must be to have gone through that experience and not come out without trauma. There's the hope that their parents might come out alive, yet their experience means that they won't believe that will happen.

Of course, there's many parallels with modern Britain. History is important because it teaches us how to deal with situations that keep recurring. Compassion should be at the centre of everything. Refugees don't choose to move away from the places they call home for nothing. They flee oppression, death, and torture. They do it to make better lives for their families. The Second World War is held up in such high regard by these in Britain. Yet we forget the lessons we should have made from that conflict. Then we stood up against the fascist dictatorship, to help people in other countries fight the yoke of oppression. We opened our arms to those in need. Yet now we turn our backs on those fleeing the same things. For a country that stood up for the underdog in the past, we're now a sorry state indeed.

Tom Palmers book is sheer brilliance. An easy yet uncomfortable read that everyone should read and remember the days when we helped those in need to find a new home. Five Towers all the way.

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Review by
AJ Steel
June 20, 2023

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