4 out of 4 stars
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War of the Sparrows by Matt Strempel brings readers to Australia ten years after the Second World War. Frank Miller was one of the Australian soldiers who fought the German enemies during the siege of Tobruk. Frank's traumatic past still haunts him in the present while he tries to live an ordinary life. As Frank wrestles with his invisible wounds, Francesca, his thirteen-year-old daughter, attempts to rebuild their relationship. When curiosity takes Francesca to the attic and into her father’s war relics, she discovers the horrors of the past and a mysterious connection between her and her father.
What I enjoyed the most about this book was its emotional resonance. It exposed me to war atrocities by touching on my emotions and sentimentality with so much nuance. War tears families apart and turns men into killing machines. Soldiers either die on the battlefield or survive with scars beyond physical relief. The families back home live in fear as they pray for their soldiers to come home alive.
I also liked how the characters gave life to these sentiments. Frank, the protagonist, is a very complex and unpredictable character. The author does not tell more than necessary, giving readers the liberty to interpret Frank’s actions and motivations. Also, Strempel wrote the teenagers in this book so well. Despite being described as an intelligent kid, Francesca was still as clumsy and childish as all the other girls her age. She does the opposite of her parents’ orders by embarking on clandestine endeavors. Jimmy, her sixteen-year-old friend, is realistically awkward and is most likely to embarrass himself. Amid the bleak atmosphere, these teenagers provided comic relief to the story.
Interestingly, the author incorporates paranormal elements in the book. The author blended these elements so seamlessly into the story that they almost appeared realistic. I liked how this aspect of the book challenged my perception of reality. I was also impressed by the writing. The prose has a wealth of metaphors and similes, making the reading experience extra delightful. With the writing so exquisite and professionally edited, I truly felt like I was in a bygone era. Further, the pacing is relatively slow, but the author is adept at building suspense and tension when the scene demands it.
I can’t think of anything to dislike. I would recommend this to anyone who might be into historical fiction that is more on drama and mystery. Although the novel is about war, the action scenes aren't excessive. It might not be suitable for readers who are looking for such works. Overall, I find this book ingenious. The characters are realistic, and the narrative style is remarkable. I couldn’t rate this book any less than 4 out of 4 stars.
War of the Sparrows
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