Quill and Quire

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Love-lies-Bleeding

by Barbara Haworth-Attard

Barbara Haworth-Attard has followed up her successful Home Child with a story inspired by her own family. After her father died in 1994, she found all the letters he’d written home during the Second World War. Despite wartime censorship, they were vivid and started her thinking about how the war affected both the soldiers and those at home.

Roberta Harrison is 13 years old, it’s 1943, and her oldest brother is fighting in Sicily. In an old math notebook, she begins to keep a diary, recording her daily school life, the trials of puberty, and her thoughts on the war. Woven into the diary are actual quotes from Haworth-Attard’s father’s letters. Scattered throughout are snapshots of military and family life.

Roberta is a delightful and convincing character. At the beginning of the book she is a kid; by the end she is a teenager. The reader follows her struggles to be best friends with the rich girl in her class, attract the handsome boy, and understand what is happening to her body. We come to know her sister, who gets pregnant by a young airman, her 16-year-old brother, who can’t wait to enlist, and her baby brother, who is scared by it all.

Roberta and her world are utterly believable. This is living history, richly detailed and enjoyable. Love-Lies-Bleeding is a book for every generation – children will enjoy the enthralling window into the past, parents will enjoy the insight into a young girl’s mind, and grandparents will enjoy reminders of victory gardens and Lorne Greene reading the news.