Paper Wings by Linda Sargent

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Paper Wings by Linda Sargent

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: An evocative right-of-passage story set in 1950s Kent. Beautifully written, well-plotted and characters you feel you would know if you met them in the street. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 198 Date: February 2010
Publisher: Omnes Publishing
ISBN: 978-0956483300

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In a wood in Kent two children played happily and as is the way with children they sometimes went where they shouldn't, but it was the nineteen fifties and the worry was more about whether they would injure themselves by falling down an abandoned well than the problems which we worry over half a century later. It was a place for plans and games, projects they didn't always tell their parents about and generally growing up. Ruby loved climbing trees and longed to fly. Peter was more sensible but the pair were inseparable.

When Ruby had an accident (trying to fly – of course) they discovered that a stranger had been living in the woods for some time. Gabriel struggled with guilt from the war but despite being reluctant to be seen by anyone he came to Ruby's aid and a cautious friendship developed between the haunted man and the two children. But it wasn't long before someone else spotted what was going on. The war might have been over but hostilities had not ceased and some old grievances and resentments came to the surface.

I loved this book: it's a perfect evocation of a nineteen fifties childhood. I know – I was present at the time. Everything's there from the attitudes down to the small details. It's decades since I've thought about the dirty jam jar half-filled with water which was hung outside the kitchen door to trap a few of the wasps which would otherwise have been in the house, but with just a few words I was back with my father borrowing my finger to help him get a tight knot on the jar. Linda Sargent has the wonderful talent of being able to use a few words to evoke a memory which could fill a book.

And that brings me to my next point. The writing is just gorgeous. It's atmospheric, descriptive without being over-blown, evocative without descending to nostalgia and a real pleasure to read. There are less than two hundred pages of text but there's not a word wasted, nothing in there which is unnecessary. She's confident enough of her readers to make a minor point and know that we will pick up the allusion without her having the need to explain. And there's a ratcheting up of the tension, which is so delicate that you don't notice it until you realise that you're sitting on the edge of your seat. When you get to the explosive ending you know that it's right, but deeply wrong.

It's a couple of days now since I finished reading the book and I've found myself thinking back to Ruby on several occasions. She was so real as I was reading that I felt I knew her. Peter is more reserved – a rather more difficult personality to bring out on paper – but Linda Sargent does it well. They might be children but they still have their own distinct personalities and you can see why they work so well together. Superb.

I'd like to thank the author for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For more of nineteen-fifties Britain you might enjoy Jacky Daydream by Jacqueline Wilson.

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Buy Paper Wings by Linda Sargent at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Paper Wings by Linda Sargent at


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