Monday, 13 October 2014

Stay Where You Are And Then Leave by John Boyne - Review

Stay Where You Are and Then Leave is a story set during World War I told from the point of view of Alfie, a 9 year old boy. It's not a story about the violence of war but of the everyday travails of those left behind. Set in London, the novel opens on Alfie's 5th birthday: the day war broke out. It tells the tale of his father, mother, grandmother and friends and how the war impacted on them as they struggled to live their lives. It is an historical novel which makes several references to historical fact. Readers learn not only about the events of the time but also about 'life' at the time. On the whole details, such as the fact that Alfie's home has an outdoor privy, the principle of make do and mend and darning along with others are interwoven into the story. However, there are occasions, especially at the beginning of the novel where it feels as though some of this detail is being taught rather than revealed.

All of the characters in the story are believable. Alfie, the young boy is smart, intelligent and caring. Margie, his loving mother, is a stoic.Whilst  Joe, a family friend, is a conscientious objector. As the war develops and the story unfolds we are taken on an emotional journey with Alfie in a quest to find the truth;one that uncovers secrets and deals with the effects of the war on the lives of everyday people and communities.

The descriptions are vivid and the text is accessible for upper Key Stage 2. The scenes in the hospital are honest, compassionate and at the same time harrowing. Teachers need to be aware of this,
as children younger than year 6 (11 year olds) might find it too distressing. Students in Key Stage 3 though would find it an engaging read, one that would provide a wealth of discussion material for both English and history lessons.

The plot itself does rely heavily on a number of coincidences but despite this Boyne once again manages to produce a compassionate, thought-provoking, page turning read.


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