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on 23 October 2013
Any book written about the first and second world wars automatically makes me sad right from the offset. These two events in history were so horrific for all involved and, even now after years of my own research, I still can't comprehend what went on. Whole generations of men were destroyed, millions of lives were lost and families were broken, all so we could one day have the freedom we have now. These brave men fought for us and, like Alfie's dad in Stay Where You Are and Then Leave, they suffered for it in the most horrible ways imaginable.

John Boyne is no stranger to writing about our world wars; he's the author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, a bestseller and a must-read for book lovers. Stay Where You Are and Then Leave is set during the First World War; it starts on Alfie Summerfield's fifth birthday when war is announced and his beloved father, Georgie, immediately signs up of his own accord. Alfie and his mother Margie's lives are changed immediately, and not for the better. Georgie is missed, Margie works every hour she can and even Alfie does his bit by shining shoes at King's Cross station. He meets a variety of colourful characters, ranging from a doctor to a young man heading to his brother's funeral. It's heart-wrenching stuff, made even worse by the realisation that this all actually happened between the years of 1914 and 1918.

Shell shock is heavily featured in this book - a condition suffered by many soldiers, but which wasn't widely recognised and instead mistaken for cowardice - as is the decision to not join up to the war effort at all. Children reading this book will learn an awful lot about WWI, about the effect it had on children, wives and parents and the community as a whole. It shows the horrors of war as well as the aftermath, when soldiers are trying to rebuild their lives and return to something like normal. It's all as sad as it sounds, but it's uplifting too, like maybe everything really will be ok for Alfie and Georgie and Margie and even grumpy old Granny Summerfield.

Stay Where You Are and Then Leave is beautifully written, as are all John Boyne's books for children. Although it's a book aimed primarily at younger readers, it's equally as satisfying for adults, and should be widely read by everyone. Millions of men went through what Alfie's dad goes through; some suffered more, some suffered less. Some survived, some died, but every one of those men went to that war believing what they were doing was right and, ultimately, necessary. Through Alfie, a heroic little boy with a fierce love for his dad, this book takes us back to a time when nothing was certain and everything was at stake. Extra special thanks are owed to all the men who fought in WWI and WWII and the women who helped in other ways - without you, we wouldn't be here now.

4.5/5
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on 13 August 2017
I'm a primary school teacher and am always on the look out for new books to recommend to my students. This book was well written and accessible to children over 9. The content was interesting and I enjoyed the character development.
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on 3 August 2017
Think it is for children/young adults and I loved The Hearts Invisible Furies.....couldn't be more different.
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on 14 April 2017
Brilliant read. Shame the ending is all so sudden. I was expecting more to read. Despite this, it's still a great read.
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on 11 December 2014
Brilliant book delivered on time
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on 8 September 2015
A look into the lives of a street and the people who lived there at the beginning and during the war through the eyes of the main character a young boy.
Heart wrenching at times as we see how lives and attitudes change on the street and the mental health issues some of the men returning home had to cope with.
Still a good easy read that may bring tears to your eyes but will also bring a smile to you face.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 October 2013
This is the story of Alfie's war. WWI broke out on Alfie's fifth birthday and the very next day his dad enlisted and never came home. We follow Alfie as he tries to be the man of the house over the next four years, including helping his mother by earning extra money. When his dad's letters home stop coming he is told by his mother that his dad cannot write as he is on a secret mission for the war and when further information about his dad falls into Alfie's lap, he goes on his own secret mission to save him.

It is a very easy to read story which flows well and would appeal to adults and children alike. The only other John Boyne book that I have read is The Absolutist so I was absolutely thrilled when, halfway through this book it "intertwines" with the story in The Absolutist. I don't know if many younger readers would have read The Absolutist, so they may not appreciate the significance, but it doesn't really matter to the storyline.

As the story progresses we see the effects of war on the young soldiers who are suffering from shellshock - a condition unheard of at that time and which doctors were struggling to come to terms with and understand. The result is a very moving story which as an adult I really enjoyed reading and which I am now delighted to pass on to my own son.
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on 29 September 2013
Unusually for me I read this great story in just a couple of sittings, great characters, heartwarmimg narrative, highly reccomended. I am fast becomimg a big fan of Mr Boyne after The Absolutist, Haunted and now this.
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on 3 November 2013
This is one of those wonderful rarities - a book written for children but best enjoyed by adults.

The book is told from the perspective of Alfie, a young boy whose father goes away to war. It is a story of a childhood disrupted by war and a small boy trying to discover the truth about his father.

What makes it so beautiful, and so tragic, is the juxtaposition of Alfie's childhood innocence and the things that we as readers know 100 years later. The ending is very bittersweet - whilst it is by all accounts mostly a happy ending, even if Alfie's childhood friend is moving back to Prague and his father will never be quite the same, we know that in a few years World War II will breakout.
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on 7 June 2014
A wonderful book that tells the story of the WW1 through the eyes of a child, Alfie is 5 years old when the war begins and 9 when it ends. It deals with issues such as shell shock and conscientious objectors along with other aspects of wartime hardships.
Although this is supposedly a children's book it's really suited for any age group. I loved it.
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