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The Wartime Book Club by Kate Thompson #Review

  The Wartime Book Club is a marvellous historical novel set on Jersey in World War Two. Written by Kate Thompson , it was published by Hodder $ Stoughton on February 13th. Jersey, 1943. Once a warm and neighbourly community, now German soldiers patrol the cobbled streets, imposing a harsh rule on the people of the island. Grace La Mottée, the island's only librarian, is ordered to destroy books which threaten the new regime. Instead, she hides the stories away in secret. Along with her headstrong best friend, postwoman Bea Rose, she wants to fight back. So she forms the wartime book club: a lifeline, offering fearful islanders the joy and escapism of reading. But as the occupation drags on, the women's quiet acts of bravery become more perilous - and more important - than ever before. And, when tensions turn to violence, they are forced to face the true, terrible cost of resistance . . . Based on astonishing real events, The Wartime Book Club is a love letter

You will be safe here by Damian Barr #Review

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing on April 2nd, You Will Be Safe Here has received some critical acclaim:

An Observer, Guardian, Financial Times, Sunday Times South Africa, Irish Times, Irish Independent, Big Issue and Strong Words Pick of the Year

An Irish Times and The Times Summer Reading Pick

Shortlisted for the Saltire Society Fiction Book of the Year Award


A beautiful and heart-breaking story set in South Africa where two mothers - a century apart - must fight for their sons, unaware their fates are inextricably linked.

Orange Free State, 1901. At the height of the Boer War, Sarah van der Watt and her six-year-old son Fred can only watch as the British burn their farm. The polite invaders cart them off to Bloemfontein Concentration Camp promising you will be safe here.
 Johannesburg, 2010. Sixteen-year-old Willem is an outsider who just wants to be left alone with his Harry Potter books and Britney, his beloved pug. Worried he’s turning out soft, his Ma and her new boyfriend send him to New Dawn Safari Camp, where they ‘make men out of boys.’ Guaranteed.

The red earth of the veldt keeps countless secrets whether beaten by the blistering sun or stretching out beneath starlit stillness. But no secret can stay buried forever.

My Thoughts

This is a moving and powerful novel and as a debut novel, is an impressive read. Set a hundred years or so apart, you see two situations where vulnerable people are kept in camps. In 1901, you are taken to Bloemfontein Concentration Camp, where Sarah is being kept. Fast forward to 2010 and Willem is enduring a stay in the New Dawn Safari Camp. It is as much of a prison as Sarah's camp. Mo matter what is said otherwise, neither of them are safe there.

    I found Sarah's camp diary to be a very effective way of conveying her thoughts and observations. It is an intimate method of recording thoughts and a great contrast to the third person account of later parts, which seem more impersonal and underline the isolation which Willem must feel as he is expected to conform. The premise behind the Training camp, that boys can be 'toughened up' and made to conform is a shocking idea.

    The historical detail of what happened in South Africa during the Boer War is a shocking and hard hitting element. This is a sad and moving read which informs and shows you how ideology can be a cruel and dehumanizing master when allowed to fester. 

In short: South African history brought alive. 

About the Author

Damian Barr is an award-winning writer and columnist. Maggie & Me, his memoir about coming of age and coming out in Thatcher's Britain, was a BBC Radio 4 ‘Book of the Week’, Sunday Times ‘Memoir of the Year’ and won the Paddy Power Political Books 'Satire' Award and Stonewall Writer of the Year Award

Damian writes columns for the Big Issue and High Life and often appears on BBC Radio 4. He is creator and host of his own Literary Salon that premieres work from established and emerging writers. You Will Be Safe Here is his debut novel. Damian Barr lives in Brighton. 

You can follow Damian here:  Twitter  |  Website

Book link: Amazon UK 

Thanks to Damian Barr, Bloomsbury Publishing and Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for a copy of the book and a place on the tour.  

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