Five Children on the Western Front
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The Psammead is all but forgotten, becoming a family myth, until he suddenly reappears at the bottom of the garden. Nowhere in the book do I really find these two ideas of the Edwardian child and the 1910s adult being brought to bear on each other.
The upper-class "jolly-hockey-sticks" quality so imbued in the children's language can jar in moments of pathos, and there's an odd tendency - especially in the Psammead's stories of its own past - for Saunders to show instead of tell.It is very well written and it's a nice continuation of Nesbit's classic series, with some light exploration of the effects of the War on life at home in England. They carry the story and observes what happens to the bigguns, the original five children during the War to End All Wars.
First sentence: The sand at the bottom of the gravel pit shifted and heaved, and out popped the furry brown head of a most extraordinary creature. They joke about how short their time in the battle will be, and then as the book goes along the darkness creeps into everyday life.She was, with Sandi Toksvig, a guest on the first episode of the long-running news quiz program Have I Got News For You. She has also been a regular contributor to radio and television, with appearances on the Radio 4 programs Woman's Hour, Start the Week, and Kaleidoscope. Why invoke these particular characters and their background of fun, innocent childhood and put them in wartime unless you were interested in how that contrast communicated.
I'm cautious of books like this one, rightfully I think, but Saunders does a good job - the tone and characterisation are better than expected, although the slang seems a little more over-the-top Blyton than Nesbit in places. I can fully say that I think Saunders handled the story well but I do implore those that read it to at least visit the original first. What I expected when I requested this book from the library was a novel written for adults, one of those books like Geoff Ryman's Was that looks back on a childhood classic with a wistful, knowing, even unsettling air. Kate Saunders' Five Children on the Western Front is both an homage and a goodbye to this twilight time. The new addition of Edie is charming, especially her unconditional love for the Psammead, with whom she spends a lot of time just chatting and oddly, for such a grump, he seems to enjoy her company as well.
Although the Lamb also starts off young, it is Edie’s youthfulness and joy in the extraordinary that keeps the bond between fantasy and reality strong. She has also been a regular contributor to radio and television, with appearances on the Radio 4 programs Woman’s Hour, Start the Week, and Kaleidoscope.
And it felt bad too, because war narratives are a very specific sort of thing and when they are applied to a book you know and love, then it is difficult to come to terms with.
Ditto kids with an interest in WWI and (though this will be less common as the years go by) kids who love Downton Abbey. Suddenly we’ve an author who dares to meld the light-hearted fantasy of Nesbit’s classic with the sheer gut-wrenching horror of The War to End All Wars.