The War I Finally Won

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The War I Finally Won (audiobook)

by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

 

Before you read The War I Finally Won, let me tell you, listening to the audiobook is a totally different experience than reading it as a hardcover or ebook.  The audiobook is read by Jayne Entwistle, and she has a strong accent and changes to a German accent when reading the parts of Ruth, the German girl, or Ruth’s parents.  I read the first book, The War That Saved My Life, when it first came out last year, and I didn’t think it was possible to enjoy the second book more than the first (because you know, the first book is always better).  I’m not sure if the book itself was better, or just the audiobook experience.

This book is Ada’s life after her mother gives her up.  It opens with Ada getting her foot surgery to correct her clubfoot.  Soon, we learn Ada and Jamie’s mother has passed away in a bombing (which ISN’T sad since their mother was such a horrible woman).  Ada is in panic mode and shuts down when she thinks she and Jamie will end up in an orphanage, which is ridiculous, because obviously, Susan loves them and takes them into her care.  They live in a cottage (aka small mansion) with Lady Thornton, and eventually Ruth, a German Jew who is being tutored by Susan.  Throughout the story, Ada needs constant reminders that she is loved and wanted by Susan, that she’s not a burden, and that she’s smart.  Ada goes through a lot of positive changes, some spurred by some tough situations, and comes out on top by the end of the war.

What I liked about this book was the change in Ada’s character.  She had so many moments of self-doubt, but the reader is constantly cheering her on and hoping for the best outcome.  Ada started the series a shattered, abused little girl, and finished book 2 (I’m not sure if there’s to be another) a stronger, more secure young woman.  She became the protector of others, and finally learned to call Susan Mum.

What I didn’t like about this book was perhaps intentional by the author, and only bugged me.  It was obvious to me (from the beginning of the series) that Susan is a lesbian.  Parents rejected her and her relationship with her partner.  Perhaps it wasn’t something that was talked about back then, perhaps the author meant for that to go over the heads of child readers, or perhaps I’m just delusional.  It was clear that their love was deep, and more than just friends.  I think it might confuse young readers who don’t understand why Susan and Becky faced so much opposition with their friendship.  Why did Becky’s dad refuse to acknowledge it?  I, as an adult, understood, but I know it went over the heads of my students.

Book 16 of 40

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The War that Saved My Life

WarThatSavedMyLife

The War that Saved My Life (hardcover)

by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

AR Level 4.1, 9 points

Newbery Honor 2016

I love historical fiction, especially when it’s broken down so I can understand it from a relatable point of view, and it tells an aspect of the event that I am unfamiliar with… those are my favorite.  When it comes to World War II, I’ve read lots of historical fiction about the holocaust, and not a whole lot more.

This book is from the perspective of a London native who was evacuated with her little brother to the countryside of Kent.  I didn’t know that children were evacuated and put with families in the country, though it certainly makes sense.  Ada isn’t like all of the other evacuees, though.  She has clubfoot, and has spent her entire life locked away by her abusive mother and told she’s ugly, simple, and unloved.  Ada’s little brother Jamie is her entire life, and she has to protect him from their mother and the world, but she is the one who really needs protecting.

Ada and Jamie escape to Kent and are placed with a woman named Susan.  We learn she has recently lost her “best friend” (but astute readers can infer it was her life partner since she was also disowned by her father for their relationship, and she feels such a deep loss).  Susan shows Ada and Jamie love, attention, affection, and care of their basic needs, which the children had never felt, and Ada has a hard time accepting.  This is not only a story about World War II evacuees, but of an abused girl who learns to care, and realize she herself is lovable.

What I liked about this book was that it was sent in a time that I have little experience with.  I think any reader will be able to learn more about the war from a child’s perspective, and to me, that is fascinating.  I liked that Ada went through such a great change, and that things worked out for the best for her (I love happy endings), and that it left me guessing.  I wanted a flash forward to see her progress in a year.

What I didn’t like was there were some parts that were hard to believe.  I found it hard to take in that a mother could be so harsh and show little remorse, even in the end.  I also didn’t like that there was unfinished plot lines.  I thought there was more that could have been explained.  People disappeared and building relationships weren’t seen through.

I would recommend this book, especially to readers who enjoy historical fiction.

Book 29 of 40 (year 2)