"Rivers are fine things to be named after, but that's not what matters.",
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This review is from: Tamar (Paperback)
A dual narrative historical fiction set in 1945 occupied Holland and 1995 England, Tamar tells the story of two SOE spies. Meticulously researched details vividly fill the story with issues such as hunger, benzedrine dependence, code silks and suicide pills. The two spies parachuted into enemy occupied Holland are code named Tamar and Dart. Their relationship soon becomes soured as Dart realises that Tamar is in love with Marijke, a woman who lives on the farm they are assigned to. Meanwhile, in 1995 England, Tamar the 16 year old granddaughter traces the history of what happened to her family in the war years with the help of a box her grandfather leaves her after his suicide.
I was enormously moved and gripped by this sensitively told story. It would suit thoughtful teenagers who have an understanding of the war. There are some scenes of mass killings which are disturbingly chilling and vivid. At one point in the book Tamar says to his girlfriend something like, "What I worry about is whether we can go through all this and still be human after the war," and indeed this does seem to be the major theme of the book to me. How much suffering can people undergo and retain their humanity to others, and not become suspicious and hateful?
The twists and turns at the end of the book had me turning the last 50 pages unable to put the book down. A superb denouement is well worth waiting for. It's a long read at 430 pages but well worth it, and the book doesn't seem a page too long. I have had it on my to-be-read bookshelf since 2006, and what a gem I have missed all those years. This is the sort of book you could read twice, to pick up the clues that you miss the first time round.
A worthy winner of the Carnegie. Stunning writing.