|Wheels of War by Sally Prue|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Another beautiful book from Sally Prue exploring the nature of war both for those who fight and those who don't, what makes a hero, and how we forge a place for ourselves in an often hostile world.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: July 2009|
Will is a nobody, a nothing, a young orphan taken in from the workhouse. His surname, Nunn, is a constant reminder of this lowly status. Will knows that he is the bottom of the pile in this great country house. He looks up to his fellow servant, George, who is Mr Gilfry's son. And he listens in awe to George's tales of soldierly valour and derring-do. So when George runs off to join the army and fight in the civil war, Will keeps his secret long enough for him to get away.
The war is a thing of glamour to Will. The thought of the King's soldiers in their red coats astride their beautiful horses fills him with awe. But it never occurs to him that he could ever fight. He's not worthy. And so he stays behind as the war comes ever closer, and the master becomes ever madder, and the rest of the household become ever less able to cope.
Someone has to step up to the plate. And there's no-one to do it but Will.
Oh oh oh oh oh and lots more ohs. I loved this beautiful book about war and courage and bravery and doing the right thing. Will is such a winning character - he's humble, keen to please and eager to learn. He considers himself worthless, but when the frailties of his companions are exposed he quietly makes up the shortfall, and when there's a crisis he's there in a flash, showing the kind of heroism very few of us would. Prue has written him wonderfully well. His supporting cast is equally well-drawn - the mad master of the house in his paranoia, his lonely, nervous sister who resents her spinsterhood, the motherly cook, the big-hearted Mr Gilfry, the lugubrious Toby and the ever-practical Rosie, for whom Will has a touching and chivalrous love.
It's set in a parallel England of the early nineteenth century, following after the real events of the Peterloo Massacre. What if there had been a mass rebellion? How would a civil war have gone? What would have happened to the people who didn't fight? Wheels of War deals with all these questions in a tremendously thought-provoking way. We see what happens to George, who is brutalised by fighting. And we see what happens to Will and his fellow servants, forced to flee oncoming fighting and reduced to abject vulnerability. We also, along with Will, come to see that you don't need to wear a red coat to be a hero, and also that home truly is where the heart is.
It's beautifully written with wonderful period detail, a fable-like quality and a genuine intimacy that makes its characters utterly credible. It comes highly recommended for all keen readers aged ten and up - right up to me, aged forty-sshh-four.
My thanks to the nice people at OUP for sending the book.
A same-but-different world is also used to explore weighty issues in the more ruthless but equally super The Road of Bones by Anne Fine and also in the classic I Am David by Ann Holm. It might sound like an odd choice for further reading here, but Bod in The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman absolutely reminded me of Will.
You can read more book reviews or buy Wheels of War by Sally Prue at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Wheels of War by Sally Prue at Amazon.com.
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