The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

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The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: With a girl as funny and wise and heart-stoppingly brave as Ada, this book is easy to read, charming and moving and just as brilliant as the preceding story.
Buy? yes Borrow? yes
Pages: 336 Date: October 2017
Publisher: Text Publishing Company
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781911231165

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I really loved The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley when I read it, and so I was excited, and also a little nervous, to see there was a sequel. The book picks up almost exactly where we left off, with Ada having had her operation to correct her club foot. Now her pain has, for the most part, been removed and she can walk and even run, Ada finds that she must now redefine who she is, and who she has always believed herself to be. Her mum had told her she was worthless, unloveable and a monster...a freak of nature who shouldn't be seen. Yet now she is just like any other little girl, with the beginnings of a new family with Susan. Ada, as spiky and unpredictable as ever, finds herself struggling with ideas relating to who she is, and who she must now try to protect, since although her foot is fixed, the war continues to rage on in Europe.

I think that although you could read this book without having read the first one, I would strongly encourage readers to start at the very beginning. There's such a nice feeling in coming back to meet these characters again, and it's helpful to know their history, although things are explained enough to get you by if need be. I liked Ada very much first time around, even when she's being desperately unlikable she is a very strong, brave and interesting character. She acts in unexpected ways, which perfectly fits who she is, and in this book it's fascinating to see her struggling with ideas of identity. She's facing the difficulties, first of all, with coming to terms with no longer being lame. Everything she's ever known about herself to be true seems to be being turned upside down. Shortly after her surgery she discovers that her mother has been killed in an air raid. This, in itself, is a difficult issue for her to deal with, given her terrible relationship with her mother. It also leaves her feeling isolated and alone, no longer anyone's daughter, and solely responsible for her little brother, Jamie.

Ada often misunderstands situations, and even language, and this can cause her relationship problems too. She struggles to allow Susan to love her, feeling she must constantly be on guard for the next disaster to strike, the next moment of danger for anyone that she cares about. I like that this book doesn't skirt around the darkness of the war, and people do die or go missing, and the dreadful horror when it's someone near to the main characters rings very true. It is sad, and dark, and difficult in places, but it is done so brilliantly that I wouldn't want to give any kind of warning. It is exactly what a World War Two book should be - both horrifying by turns and yet also uplifting and glorious.

Issues of identity appear again with the arrival of a young German girl, Ruth, who comes to stay. Ruth is Jewish, but she is viewed with suspicion by all thanks to her German nationality. The book deals with these issues sensitively and thoughtfully, and I enjoyed reading the unfolding of Ruth's story as slowly, very slowly, Ada begins to trust her and, equally, Ruth returns that trust. We're also shown issues of identity relating to the British class system, as Lady Thornton finds herself turned out from her home and having to share the cottage with Susan, Ada, Jamie and Ruth. Moving away from her stereotyped posh English lady role she becomes a much more interesting character, increasingly damaged and challenged by the situations the war throws at her. I found myself lurching from hating her to thinking her wonderful!

Issues from the war, such as fire watch duty, rationing, farm girls and being alert for spies are all woven in too, so whilst you never feel as if you're being given a history lesson, the story leaves you with a richer knowledge all the same. Butter, the horse, is there too for all the horse riding fans and Maggie, Lady Thornton's daughter as well. Yet it's Ada that you're waiting for on every turn of every page. What will she do next? What will she say? Will she ever understand how much Susan cares for her, or that she is finally safe amongst people who love her and have her best interests at heart? All of it was wonderful, and the ending was particularly moving. Ada is wildly brave, and her struggles to overcome both her physical and emotional traumas are depicted humorously, and movingly, and in the most readable way. I'm torn between wanting to know more about Ada, and being happy to leave her here, at this point of happiness in her life. In any case, I really do recommend this story, both for grown ups who don't care if a book is a so-called 'children's book', and for children aged around nine and older. My daughter has read the first story over and over, and she's itching to get her hands on this one. I know she won't be disappointed.

Further reading suggestion: Some other war stories you might like to look at are A Medal for Leroy by Michael Morpurgo and Stories of World War One by Tony Bradman

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Buy The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley at


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