I came across Mal Peet's award-winning YA novel Tamar one day at work in the library. I was filing away other books when the cover of this one--specifically the parachute on the cover--caught my eye. (As some of you know, my dad and grandfather were both paratroopers, so that automatically made me curious.) Then the tagline that said "Espionage, Passion, Betrayal" caught my eye. Yeehaw! Espionage and Betrayal! Two subjects that have long fascinated me. (Some of you may think my priorities are screwed up . . . ) I once tried to write a spy novel when I was younger. It was quite awful, but I love a realistic spy story--you may gather James Bond doesn't work for me--and that's precisely why I loved this book so much.
I liked this novel very much; however, I did find the modern scenes, in which a girl named Tamar slowly pieces together what happened, less compelling. Not that they were bad, but compared to the WWII scenes, which are so haunting and unique, the common YA subplot of a troubled teen who puzzles out her family's tragic past with the help of a relative's parting gift was just a bit too cliche for me. Tamar the Dutch resistance fighter interested me, because he was a unique character; Tamar the confused teen girl did not interest me very much, only because I have seen a thousand characters like her. Again, it is not that the scenes set in modern times are badly written. It's just they struck me as less compelling, because they lacked the originality of the rest of the novel.
If you like excellent historical fiction or are just looking for an action-packed good read, try Tamar. The historical atmosphere is impeccable, and the story is superbly crafted. I'm glad I picked this one up. :D
Next Time: Maybe some Daphne Du Maurier. Maybe some Dostoevsky.
This Week in Literary History:
31 May 1819: American poet Walt Whitman is born on Long Island, New York. My lit. professor once said that Whitman was not the first American poet, but he was the first distinctly American poet. Whitman's Leaves of Grass is a poetry classic, but I am quite fond of his heartbreaking "Into the Cradle Endlessly Rocking", an autobiographical poem in which Whitman describes the moment he realized he was born to be a poet.
I would also be remiss to not note, seeing as I am reviewing a novel about WWII, that today is the 66th anniversary of the D-Day invasions.