That Burning Summer
By Lydia Syson
It’s July 1940 on the south coast of England. A plane crash-lands in the marsh, and sixteen-year-old Peggy finds its broken pilot—a young Polish airman named Henryk. Afraid and unwilling to return to the fight, Henryk needs a place to hide, and Peggy helps him find his way to a remote, abandoned church. Meanwhile, Peggy’s eleven-year-old brother Ernest is doing his best to try to understand the war happening around him. He’s reading all the pamphlets—he knows all the rules, he knows exactly what to do in every situation. He’s prepared, but not for Peggy’s hidden pilot. Told in alternating points of view, this is a beautifully written story about growing up in wartime and finding the difference between following the rules and following your heart.
What Did I Think Of The Book?
I was really looking forward to reading this book. The cover is beautiful, and the blurb made it sound like a great read. I couldn't wait to get started. I was quite taken back by how the book opened. I wasn't too sure what Ms Syson was trying to do initially, but it seemed as if I had stumbled onto some poorly written poetry that didn't make any sense. The prose were too lyrical, too short, and to sweetly sticky for my liking. It was difficult to read, let alone engage with.
But...it takes a great deal for me to give up on a book so I persevered, and in this instance, I am so glad I did.
As the book progressed, the writing became less flamboyant and began to have an easy to read flow to it. Ms Syson settles down to a very nice writing style, and the book blossomed. The story itself is beautiful, and it is set in a very realistic backdrop of WW2. It is very clear that Ms Syson has done her homework and researched the era in great depth, for she brought it back to life. I got completely lost in this book and time flew by because I was so absorbed in the story.
Ms Syson deals with a few controversial subjects in this book, which I thought she handled with a very delicate hand. From a child's anxiety to what we call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but what they would have called Shell Shock — which of course wasn't understood so well back then. She also deals with the contentious issue of those who would not bear arms against another, and she highlighted just how dreadful it was if you dared to refuse to go to war and fight. We often forget how barbaric the pacifists and their families were treated by the authorities and by their neighbours.
There are three protagonists in this book, and I liked the changing Points of Views. We have young Earnest, who is terrified he is going to stumble upon a spy. There is sixteen-year-old Peggy, who is convinced life is going to pass her by because of the war. Lastly, there is Henryk, a young Polish pilot who has lost his nerve to get back into an aeroplane.
This story is about them, and it is sublime. Despite the wobbly beginning, this book is really rather good. That Burning Summer is a very cleverly crafted piece of Young Adult Historical Fiction. It is worth checking out! I Highly Recommend.
*I received this book for free copy of this book via Netgalley for review consideration*
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