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The War Within

by Carol Matas

In the opening pages of The War Within, fledgling Southern belle Hannah Green rages in her diary that her little brother has been reading her journal. By the end of this story, she has lost far more than her privacy: her home, her possessions, and many of her beliefs have all been destroyed. Set in Mississippi in 1862, this short novel chronicles what happens to a family of loyal Confederates after General Grant issues an order forcing all Jews to evacuate the territory he commands. When her family is forced to march to Memphis for “processing,” Hannah comes to see the parallels between the discrimination against Jews and the treatment of African-Americans, and realizes the injustice of slavery.
Award-winning novelist Carol Matas has aptly used the diary genre to capture Hannah’s rapidly changing circumstances and perspectives; by sharing the girl’s “private” thoughts, we share her “war within,” an emotional battleground of tradition, community, and conflicting loyalties. Consequently, when Hannah and her parents finally reject their Confederate beliefs, this change does not seem mechanical or predestined but comes naturally out of their experiences. Matas has done an excellent job of making us like and identify with characters whose initial views are unsupportable and reprehensible. She has also made a period of American history engaging and topical for contemporary Canadian readers. By paralleling Jewish-American and African-American experience, Matas does not try to make sweeping generalizations about their experiences or provide facile solutions to complicated issues. Instead, she invites readers to question the practice of judging people based on such constructions as race. Children aged nine to twelve will relish this fast-paced, thought-provoking novel.


Reviewer: Laurie Mcneill

Publisher: Scholastic Canada


Price: $18.99

Page Count: 154 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 0-439-98810-1

Issue Date: 2001-6


Age Range: ages 9-12

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