Ten: Living in Wartime

Whether one is living under the threat of invasion, or waiting at home to hear what happened in last night’s battle, living in a country at war places new stresses on anyone old enough to understand. Supplies are more expensive, or simply not available. Friends and family members risk their lives, and perhaps you are called upon to do the same. People are more suspicious, the truth–both about what’s happening and why it’s happening–can be elusive, and even the end of the war rarely promises a return to the way things were. This week’s Ten looks at war from the perspective of the home front, of refugees, of combatants, of rebels, and of civilians caught in the middle of a war they didn’t choose.

My Bonny Light Horseman by L.A. Meyer
The sixth of the Jacky Faber books, this story finds Jacky under cover in France. Though initially posted in a brothel (where a bit of creativity gets her out of actually serving any customers), Jacky soon gets herself off the sidelines and into the thick of things on Napoleon’s battlefield. Though Jacky thrills to adventure, an unexpected encounter with an old acquaintance allows her to voice her ambivalence toward war and violence.

Little Womenby Louisa May Alcott
For the most part, the characters in Little Women seem untouched by war. The fact that the girls’ father has gone to fight in the Civil War forms the basis of the family’s circumstances, however. Without his income, the women at home struggle to provide for themselves, and while the girls face their own challenges, Marmee works hard to raise her daughters alone, offering guidance and discipline in schooling, work, and relationships.

Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery
The last of the Anne of Green Gables novels, Rilla of Ingleside shifts the reader’s focus to Anne’s youngest daughter, Rilla just as the First World War breaks. A remarkable piece of Canadian home front history, Rilla tells of love and loss, rationing and bravery and, eventually, growing up in a country far from war, but committed to it all the same.

Listen for the Singing by Jean Little
Listen for the Singing begins the morning that war is declared on Germany in 1939, and follows Anna Solden’s family–German immigrants to Canada only a few years before–through the first year of the war. Despite honestly weighing the evils of Nazi Germany (Anna’s aunt and her father-in-law are taken to an concentration camp midway through the novel, and the family does not expect to see them again) against the evils of war itself, the novel manages to be, more than anything else, about hope.

Looking at the Moon by Kit Pearson
Norah and her brother Gavin came to Canada to escape the bombing of England during World War II. Now thirteen, Norah finds herself torn between the righteous anger she’s carried from home, and her respect for a soon-to-be soldier who questions whether war is righteous after all.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
Marcus and his friends have a knack for manipulating the system so that they can do what they like. With the US watching closely for potential terrorist activity, though, that kind of behaviour can get you in big trouble. Skipping school one day to play a hi tech game, the group is picked up and taken to a facility, where they are interrogated and tortured. When Marcus is eventually released, he devotes himself to a campaign against a government willing to sacrifice its own people to maintain an illusion of security.

Descent into Paradise by Vincent Karle
Police officers in Paradise take advantage of questionable evidence in a drug bust to first mistreat and then bring about the deportation of a high school student, Zaher, who has recently emigrated with his family from Afghanistan. Marcus, the son of the Paradise police chief, tells the story from the perspective of the insider (and, notably, the owner of the drugs for which Zaher and his family are deported). Disillusioned by what he sees, Marcus determines to expose similar injustice in the future as a journalist.

Under the Persimmon Tree by Suzanne Fisher Staples
Under the Persimmon Tree draws the reader along with Najmah as she journeys from Afghanistan to Pakistan in search of her father and brother, who have been conscripted by the Taliban. Though Staples writes from an American perspective, her experiences while working in South Asia seem to have given her a good sense of the culture that she describes. This is a believable and challenging read.

The White Mountains by John Christopher
In the twentieth century, a race of aliens invaded Earth and required that all humans wear “caps” capable of controlling their minds. A century later, on the eve of his Capping, Will decides to escape the life promised by the cap and leaves his village to seek safety elsewhere. What he finds is a group of rebels hiding in the mountains. With his new community, Will joins in planning a revolt that will–they hope–free the world from their Masters. Readers will have to go on to The City of Gold and Lead and The Pool of Fire to find out what happens.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Like Will, Ender faces war against a poorly-understood alien enemy. Bred (literally) to take a place at the head of Earth’s army, Ender is both strengthened and damaged by the role that he is asked to play. His talent for empathy, though painful under the circumstances, offers the possibility of restoration once the war is over.

Note: Sincere apologies for the very late post. I’m out in New Brunswick at the moment, meeting my new niece. Between cuddling a newborn and leaving all my books on the shelves at home, it proved trickier than I’d anticipated to get this post pulled together. Thanks for your patience!

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