Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Review: Postcards from No Man's Land

Dear Blog,
I bring with me a review of Postcards from No Man's Land by Aidan Chambers, which I read last week and was too busy doing holiday-type things to review at the time. 

Summary (from Goodreads): Jacob Todd is abroad on his own, visiting his grandfather’s grave at the commemoration of the Battle of Arnhem in Amsterdam. There, he meets elderly Geertrui, who tells an extraordinary story of love and betrayal, which completely overturns Jacob’s view of himself and his country, and leads him to question his place in the world. Jacob’s story is paralleled in time by the events of the dramatic day in World War II when retreating troops were sheltered by Geertrui’s family.

Review: I've been meaning to read the Dance sequence for a few months, since I saw the epicly huge This is All in a library and didn't have enough space in my bag to take it out.  I haven't been back to that particular library since, and since it's not in my area (though, being the weirdo I am, I have about 3 different library cards to supply me with books from all around southern England), I can't order a copy.  Anyway, I've been so busy buying and borrowing other books I'd sort of not gotten round to it.  Eventually I ordered a copy of Postcards off Amazon (seeing as I don't have room for This is All on my bookcase).  How glad I am that I did.
Although Postcards is the fifth book, I think you can read them in any order.  I have.  

First things first: this is a very complex book.  In my failed attempt to explain it, this will no doubt be a very confusing, all-over-the-place review that makes little sense.  The story is split into two halves and tells two stories; that of Jacob, a 17-year-old in Amsterdam, circa 1995, and Geetrui, who is a terminally ill woman whose side of the story is written as a letter to Jacob about her life towards the end of the second world war.   

I wasn't sure what to make of Jacob at first.  At the beginning of the book he reminded me a little bit of  Simon from Exchange by Paul Magrs; timid, shy and slightly boring, but as the book went on and he changed as a person, I liked him more and more.  Though on the whole he still wasn't particularly amazing (Now, male protagonists must be as likeable as Sammy from Struts and Frets and Miles from Looking for Alaska in order for me to really, really like them)
However.  To my mind, Geetrui and her 1944 companions really steal the show.  This is for many reasons: she's a more likeable character, her relationship (with Jacob's grand-father) was true love- Although Jacob learns a lot from his exploration of life and love in Amsterdam, there's no proper passion, no undying love.  Which, now and again, is absolutely awesome.  Little flings over the course of a few days interest me not.   Also, it was set in the past.  If you read my blog often then you'll know that Historical Fiction is one of my favourite genres.  So it makes me happy that Postcards had an element of that.

In the afterword of my copy, Aidan Chambers says that people tend to watch Jacob but live with Geetrui, therefore making her side of the story more compelling.  This was, to my mind, true.  It was heartbreaking and hopeful and exciting and romantic.    
The way the author wove Geetrui and Jacob's lives together was very clever and well thought-up. I love stories where multiple lives intertwine in a clever and awesome sort of way. 

Postcards is a very serious book.  Not serious as in, depressing, but serious as in full of philosophical, intellectual-type quotes that make you want to go through the book with a highlighter to mark out all the important passages.  If I liked to vandalise my books that way, I may well do that, but I don't like to hurt books that way.  Indeed, if they wanted certain pages to be hot pink/neon yellow/other highlighter colour, surely they would have printed them like that? 

Summary:  Not as amazing as I was hoping it would be,  but I'm definitely going to read the rest of the books in the Dance Sequence.  Expect more Aidan Chambers reviews to come.  Rating : 3.75

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave a comment if you like. Don't be shy- I don't bite.