January 23, 2007
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Reviewed: Harcover from library
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When her grandfather dies, Tamar inherits a box containing a series of clues and coded messages. Out of the past, another Tamar emerges, a man involved in the terrifying world of resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied Holland half a century before. His story is one of passionate love, jealousy, and tragedy set against the daily fear and casual horror of the Second World War -- and unraveling it is about to transform Tamar’s life forever.
From acclaimed British sensation Mal Peet comes a masterful story of adventure, love, secrets, and betrayal in time of war, both past and present.
Oh my goodness. The ending. I just read the ending and I can't not mention it. Don't you worry, I'm not about to spoil it for you before I even give you a reason to read this book at all, but the ending! Such a shocker. I never saw it coming, not in a million years!
Okay, so this is the book I've been reading with my dad since the beginning of the month. We have set a goal to read one book together every month, and this is the one we chose for January. It took us a while to decide on it, but I'm so so so glad we did. It did sound like just the kind of thing I would read with him, and it was every bit as good as I expected it to be.
One thing I found a bit confusing at first was that there were two characters named Tamar: in 1945, there was a man who fought in the Dutch resistance, whose code name was Tamar, after the river. In 1995, there was his granddaughter, a teenaged girl, also named Tamar. While it was not too hard to keep track of as I was reading, I found that it made the book kind of difficult to talk about with my dad. He would say, "Oh my gosh, can you believe what Tamar did?" And I would say, "Wait...old Tamar or now Tamar?" We always had to make sure there was context around things we said, but that was okay.
This book was very intriguing. There are an uncountable number of books that take place during World War II, but I think this one brought something new to the game. First of all, you don't usually hear from a Dutch point of view. The main character tends to be either German or Jewish. So that was unique. One moment I found especially eye opening was when one member of the resistance kills an important Nazi officer, one of the Germans asks how many bullet holes were in the car. Someone goes out and counts, and they send out an order to kill exactly that number of the todeskandidaten. That is truly frightening. I find it truly frightening that living, breathing people could be exchanged for bullet holes.
Also, I found it very interesting how Tamar's grandfather sent her (and Yoyo) on this journey to the Tamar River after he'd died, and how he knew that she would go to the places and put the pieces together. It shows a strong family connection between two unlikely people. Yoyo was my favorite character, because he was really sweet and smart and gentlemanly in a boyish way and gahhh. I would love to go on a seemingly pointless road trip with him.
In conclusion, I would highly recommend this book for those not faint of heart. If you have read a WWII book before, you'll probably be able to handle this. It's a great mystery with, again, a gaspy ending (make sure you are not eating or drinking during the last 20 pages). And, parents, it is definitely something you can read with your middle schoolers, if they are so inclined.