STARRED REVIEW
October 03, 2017

Hope on the homefront

By Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

“You can know things all you like, but that doesn’t mean you believe them,” says 11-year-old Ada Smith at the start of this luminous sequel to Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s Newbery Honor-winning The War That Saved My Life, also set in World War II England.

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“You can know things all you like, but that doesn’t mean you believe them,” says 11-year-old Ada Smith at the start of this luminous sequel to Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s Newbery Honor-winning The War That Saved My Life, also set in World War II England.

The story, which spans three years, begins at a time when Ada knows many things she doesn’t truly believe: that she and her little brother, Jamie, are safe with their guardian, Susan, who loves them; that the operation on her club foot is successful; and that she no longer needs to be afraid of her mother. The novel also explores many things Ada doesn’t know: the meanings of words (leading to the much-appreciated gift of a dictionary); the complicated ways in which people can love; and the notion that people can have differing religious beliefs. She confronts the latter head-on when a Jewish refugee girl named Ruth joins their household to be tutored in math by Susan.

The novel also takes on class differences. Susan, Ada and Jamie are offered the chance to live in a cottage owned by Lady Thorton, who in turn joins the household when her manor is taken over by the war department. This leads (perhaps especially for adult readers, to some of the novel’s lighter moments, as Ada teaches Lady Thorton how to cook, and in return, Lady Thorton treats Ada to an excursion in London.

In fact, while Ada is at the center of the novel, each member of this thrown-together family ends up fighting his or her own war—journeys through grief, loss and acceptance. By the end, Ada is able to conquer her own fears and garner the ability to help others begin to heal.

Bradley has crafted a remarkable and accessible story of resilience, friendship and acceptance of others. The War I Finally Won is not only a compelling look at history but also an important book for our time.

 

Deborah Hopkinson lives near Portland, Oregon. Her most recent book for young readers is Independence Cake.

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The War I Finally Won

The War I Finally Won

By Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Dial
ISBN 9780525429203

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