When The Guns Fall Silent by James Riordan

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When The Guns Fall Silent by James Riordan

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: A moving story which never shies away from dealing with the horrors of war. Recommended reading to teens and perhaps for mature pre-teens who can cope with some fairly graphic descriptions at times.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 176 Date: November 2013
Publisher: OUP
ISBN: 978-0192735706

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In 1964, Perry visits a foreign cemetery with his grandfather Jack, a hero of World War I. Jack doesn't like to talk about the war, much to Perry's disappointment, but on this trip he finds himself thinking back 50 years to a time when he signed up full of enthusiasm only to be confronted by the harsh realities of war, and looking back on those of his friends - English and German - who didn't make it.

It's a moving story which fully captures the horrors of war, and doesn't shy away from being fairly graphic in its telling of them. We see a suicide, a mercy killing, a firing squad, in addition to the actual fighting. It never feels gratuitous, though, because this is such an important topic that it's only right that it should be described as fully as possible. Between the graphicness of a few scenes and some strong language, it's hard to quite know who to recommend this too - I think thoughtful younger readers will get a huge amount out of it, but I know many parents and guardians will want to be warned of those things. Teens may initially be surprised by its short length, but it packs a lot into its relatively few pages.

In what is overall a very well-written novel, the characters are perhaps the only slightly weak part - Jack is captured well, with a strong voice shining through in his letters to his sister, but the others are pretty standard heroic 'normal men' and snobbish officers showing disdain for their troops as they feast. The framing story is a nice touch which adds a little impact to the main part of the tale. Speaking of the main part, I was slightly surprised that the climatic football match took up relatively little room in the story compared to the impression I'd formed from reading about the book. However it was well described and captured the friendship that sprung up between the men.

All in all, this is an affecting tale - made all the better for its brevity, which is becoming something of a rare quality in children's books today - and well worth reading. This is a welcome rerelease of a book originally published in 2000 - I'm sure there will be plenty related to the First World War coming out next year to commemorate the 100th anniversary; I'll guess that this will be one of the best children's or teen books to tackle a difficult topic.

My favourite World War II story for teens is still Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein; sequel Rose Under Fire is also well worth reading. Not far behind CNV on my list is the wonderful The Things We Did for Love by Natasha Farrant.

Buy When The Guns Fall Silent by James Riordan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy When The Guns Fall Silent by James Riordan at Amazon.co.uk


Buy When The Guns Fall Silent by James Riordan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy When The Guns Fall Silent by James Riordan at Amazon.com.

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