From Publishers Weekly
Sophisticated teenage readers yearning for a wider view of life may find themselves intoxicated by this Carnegie Medal¤winning novel from Chambers (The Toll Bridge; Dance on My Grave), recent recipient of the Hans Christian Andersen Author Award. Jam-packed with ideas and filled with passionate characters, the story is made up of two narratives, one set in the mid-1990s and the other in 1944. The inevitable but surprising ways in which these two tales connect form the novel¡s backbone. Bookish, intense and self-conscious, Jacob Todd, 17, has left his English home to spend a few days in the Netherlands paying homage to the soldier grandfather he never knew, and visiting Geertrui, the Dutch woman who took care of his grandfather after he was wounded in battle. Shortly after meeting a beguiling stranger, a mugging leaves Jacob stranded in Amsterdam, forcing him into the initially awkward role of houseguest to Geertrui¡s forceful and freethinking grandson, Daan. The second story, set in occupied Holland at the time of the battle to liberate Oosterbeck, and narrated by Geertrui, chronicles her long-ago relationship with Jacob¡s grandfather. As each narrative unwinds, parallels and differences between the two eras emerge. Along with literature, art and love, topics dealt with here include euthanasia, adultery and bisexuality. These issues never become problems to be solved; rather, they are part of the story's texture, neither more nor less significant than the precarious joy of investigating a new city and a foreign culture. No tidy endings here - the concluding scenes present Jacob with a complicated moral dilemma that remains unresolved. The implied challenges of the future make the final pages all the more satisfying: it's clear that Jacob can not only cope with ambiguity but can employ it to enlarge himself on the voyage of self-discovery he has so auspiciously begun. Ages 14-up.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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From School Library Journal
Grade 10-Up This book received international acclaim after its 1999 publication in Europe. Older teens on this side of the Atlantic now have a chance to read the two complex and challenging narratives intertwined in this beautifully written novel. When 17-year-old Jacob travels solo from England as his grandmother's representative at a ceremony in the Netherlands commemorating the World War II Battle of Arnhem, he is transformed. Jacob is intrigued and excited by new ideas engendered by initially bewildering experiences: the strangely disturbing Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, new acquaintances who cross gender lines, and, most of all, the imminent assisted death of the elderly lady who was his grandfather's wartime nurse and has kept in contact with his family. This frail Dutchwoman, the second narrator, has her own startling tale to tell, recalling in detail her short but passionate relationship with another Jacob long ago, when the whole world seemed to be burning and when serious, irrevocable choices were made in haste. The protagonists in these coming-of-age stories face real-world decisions involving love, sexuality, and friendship, linking the teenagers across time and generations, and leading to a conclusion as convincing as it is absorbing and thought-provoking. -Starr E. Smith, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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