As a fan of Tom Palmer’s previous wartime novels, I had been looking forward to this read for quite some time and it certainly lived up to expectations! Tom has a way of speaking to his young audience in a cleverly clear, concise manner, giving enough detail to portray the horrors of war but in a careful, age appropriate way. His words give MG readers an insight into post-war life and enables them to empathise with the individuals and the unthinkable situations they experienced.
‘After the War’ is set in the summer of 1945, WW2 is over and Polish teenagers Yossi, Leo and Mordecai arrive in the English Lake District straight from the Nazi concentration camps. The story is inspired by real events, 300 Jewish child survivors of the Holocaust arrived at Lake Windermere in the post-war period. They are offered safety, peace and a time and place to help them recover from the horrific traumas they had experienced. The characters in the story are fictional but Tom Palmer’s meticulous research means the events are based on the stories passed down from the survivors themselves and locals from the Colgarth Estate, where the story is set.
This book is both heart-breaking and heart-warming at the same time. The boys each have their own thoughts and wartime memories haunting them. The lost relatives – whether missing or dead – spiral in and out of their thoughts constantly. But they are there for each other, supporting one another through the trauma. Their close friendship is strong and together they create a plan for the future. They may be without family, but they are not alone, they have each other.
This book had me thinking, a lot. It had me pausing to picture the events in my mind’s eye, knowing that it is based on truth makes it even more poignant. It is a story of hope and friendship in a turbulent time and it is definitely a book I will be recommending to both staff and children at my school and beyond.