The book is set in late 1949 (ah! I remember it well)and fourteen year old Henry lives with his mother, stepfather, little sister and his Gran. Henry knows his father died a hero and, in his eyes, 'Uncle Bill' does not match up and Gran agrees. There is conflict enough at home without the new teacher taking against him. Especially as he acts so friendly to the two boys that nobody wants to know. However, slowly Henry's eyes are opened to truth after truth till a photo that he has taken turns his world upside down.
This was one of the most gripping and enjoyable books for youngsters that I have read. To write a 700 page book for children is challenge enough. To succeed in making every one of those pages captivating is a tremendous achievement. The author populates her book with distinct and clearly defined characters which young readers will come to regard as friends - but, of course, not everyone can be depended on.
It is the gradual resolution of one mystery after another that involves both Henry and the reader in this terrific tale. The plot moves from one puzzle to the next with obvious care and simplicity so that, despite its length, the story is over all too soon.
For the younger reader, there is much social history on subtle display. How attitude have changed to divorce and unmarried mums! For the reader who remembers 1949, it is a luxurious wallow in forgotten memories such as Saturday morning picture shows, the launch of The Eagle comic and some marvelous black and white movies. For all, it is a heart warming, engrossing read.
It is ten years since the last book by Michelle Magorian. This superb book justifies the wait.