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AJB Orr-Ewing "Jonathan Orr-Ewing"

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The Children Who Fought Hitler: A British Outpost in Europe
The Children Who Fought Hitler: A British Outpost in Europe
by James Fox & Sue Elliott
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 20.00

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary Story, 11 Nov 2009
The story of the children of British gardeners, who lived in Belgium to establish and tend the War Graves after the First World War, would not at first sight seem an attention grasping subject.

However the story of the foundation of this expatriot English community and the establishment of a British School to educate the children of English fathers and French or Belgian mothers provides the starting point for an extraordinarily detailed, fascinatingly documented and moving book.

From the description of the annihilation of Ypres in the First World War to the tales of amazing bravery of two of the children, who as adults played their part in the Resistance in the Second, the narrative of this compelling book gives as good an account as many broader histories of the two World Wars.

Seen through the eyes of the members of the Community the book evokes in a vivid way the variety of individuals, some good some bad some weak some strong, who populate this little society.

The book is a thoroughly entertaining read and, because the characters are brought so strongly to life, their very ordinariness gives a colour and poignancy to this remarkable history.

Buy it!!!

Alicia's Gift
Alicia's Gift
by Jessica Duchen
Edition: Hardcover

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A touch of genius., 23 April 2007
This review is from: Alicia's Gift (Hardcover)
Alicia's Gift is one of those rare novels that combines excellent narrative skill with deft characterisation whilst simultaneously increasing one's knowledge about an arcane but approachable subject.

Alicia, a child prodigy of the piano, is our heroine and her story of the impact she has on those around her, from family to fellow professionals and friends, is faultlessly charted by Jessica Duchen. Here we are not analysing genius; we observe it and with it the extaordinarily high level of hard work and personal sacrifice that unique talent insists on bringing in its wake.

The structure of the story is impeccably paced. With each page the characters develop and their own challenges and their personalities emerge. In the seas of genius there are always demons lurking underneath the surface ready to sink the fragile vessel that plots its lonely voyage. Duchen's skill lies in resisting the temptation to over characterise her subsidiary characters. She creates a thoroughly credible cast, sparingly but tellingly observed, who combine to propel the reader ever more enthusiastically towards the denouement. This is one of Duchen's great skills as a novellist. Alicia does little except study and play the piano with relentless persistence; hardly one would think, an interesting character in herself; worthy but potentially dull. After all we cannot hear her play so the supporting cast has to supply her character through their own reactions and relationships with her. This is achieved 'con brio'.

Jessica Duchen's technical grasp of plot, pace and personality combined with her formidable knowledge of music make this a simply great read. Her unobtrusive manipulation of the relationships within the novel provide a delightful reminder of Iris Murdoch.

Alicia's Gift is a thoroughly good, intelligent, read!

Give yourself pleasure: buy it!

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