The Children's War
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The Children's War

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  172 ratings  ·  28 reviews
In the spring of 1939, on the eve of her thirteenth birthday, a girl sits in a waiting room in Marseilles. Ilse is half Jewish; her mother has sent her out of Germany to a place she hopes will afford her daughter absolute safety. But instead, Ilse’s journey takes her deep into the landscape of war: first to Morocco, then to Paris under the threat of Nazi invasion. Travelin...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published September 7th 2004 by Knopf (first published 2004)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 399)
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Ann Love
While I agree with some reviewers that this book isn't "fast-paced", I think that's OK. This book is trying to show the toll war takes on children. Children often know more about what is going on than adults give them credit for and they struggle with the same issues as the adults, sometimes more than the adults. That's the case with Nicolai and Ilse. They are struggling to survive, to understand, and to come to terms with the events unfolding around them. This book was moving, shocking, and ult...more
Tracy
A difficult book to enter into. It's full of a million details, and I found the author's choice of syntax sometimes confusing (not sure whether that has to do with the author being British while I'm definitely American). There are also a lot of French and German phrases (translations provided). I think those might be distracting for anyone who doesn't have a basic knowledge of those languages.

I stayed with the book because I have a particular interest in the history of WWII in Europe, especiall...more
Pamela Pickering
Anyone who knows me knows I love WWII fiction. Well, had to put this one away. Just couldn't get into it. I was interested in the first three pages and after that, nada. I'm not sure if it was the writer's style or the story in general.
Louise
Interesting start but very weak ending. Poor conclusion to the story. Couldn't recommend.
Tess
I found it boring, nothing very exciting happened and most of the characters were unlikeable.
Tania
It took a good few pages for me to get into this book, but by the time Ilse was shipped back to Europe, I was hooked.

I love books set during WWII and I liked this one. Unfortunately it's a little forgettable but most books are. While reading it, it's a good read. It flows interestingly, it leaves certain things to the imagination ('showing not telling' as a good friend calls it) and it's very well researched.

Yes, the ending isn't a pretty and neat little package with a bow around it but isn't th...more
Lori L (She Treads Softly)
Set during WWII, The Children's War follows Ilse Blumenthal and Nicolai Bucherer in two parallel story lines.
Ilse Blumenthal is a thirteen year old with a Christian mother and Jewish father. Her mother sends her to Algeria to live with her uncle, but she ends up being sent to Paris to live with her estranged father when her uncle enrolls in the French Foreign Legion. Ilse longs for her mother, who was the parent who consistently loved and cared for her. Her father, Otto, is an ineffectual paren...more
Canadian Reader
This novel treats the wartime experiences of a young German girl, Ilse Blumenthal, (with a Jewish/Bolshevik father and a Protestant mother) in Morocco and Nazi-occupied France, where her mother has sent her for safety. After a very slow start, the book picks up considerably. Some chapters also focus on Nicolai, a young teenage German boy for whose family Ilse's mother works. The novel reads strangely and rather distantly as though translated from another language. From the title, one understands...more
Amy J
Not very fast-paced, I found this book a little difficult to get into. Had I not taken it on vacation, I don't know that I would have finished it. The chapters alternate between two different stories, one of a girl who is trapped in France, away from her German mother. The other story is about a German boy whose nursemaid is Ilse's mother. I was disappointed that there was never more interaction between the two sets of characters than that. I found most of the boy's story pretty boring and under...more
Kathy
WWII story of 2 young people. Ilse, 11 sent to Morocco/France by her mother for safety who then sends her Father to be w/her. Her Father, is Jewish, her mother in not. Father has been in prision much of Ilsa's young life as he is a revolutionary, thus a difficult relationship between them. The other story is of the young boy (14) who is in the household of the family Ilsa mother works for as a nanny. Ilsa's mother if waiting for the return of Ilsa, all but impossible as the war rags; the young b...more
Diane
Thirteen-year old Ilse’s father is Jewish, so in 1939 she is sent away from Germany, first to her uncle in Morocco and later to unoccupied France to live with her father. I liked the way that author shows Ilse grow and change from a highly responsible, but normal young teenager into a savvy young person. I liked the juxtaposition of Ilse’s life with the life of a wealthy, young boy in Hamburg. I particularly liked the lack of resolution to many of the questions and relationships – just as things...more
Lissa
I really loved many parts of this book, but the ending was really disappointing and not very believable. I became so attached to the character of Ilse, but the ending was so abrupt and ambiguous that I felt sort of cheated by not having any real sense of what will happen for her.
Norma
I very much enjoyed this book. The perspective of two children during the events of WWII is refreshing. Nicolai`s life become one of trying to avoid Nazi service while not threatening his family reputation. His friendship with the housekeeper is the link between the two stories. Ilse`s life becomes one of moving around to avoid being taken by the Nazi`s and hiding her Jewish heritage. Her friendship and involvement with the French Resistance is revealling. The ending of both stories is somewhat...more
Anne
I wanted to start reading it again as soon as I was finished in order to more fully digest everything. I see a lot of complaints about the ending and how we are left unsure about the fate of some characters. For me, that is the way it would have happened. Who knew what happened to everyone who had been scattered by the war? People never found family members or friends again. People's lives were irretrievably broken and changed in ways we cannot imagine. I loved this book. Very rich. It was almos...more
Sherry
It took three tries to finally read this book. I'd read the first couple of chapters, then put it away for a while.
My final review is that I enjoyed the story, but the ending was disappointing. Almost as if the author had grown tired and just gave the story up.
I still gave it 4 stars because it was good up to the last chapter.
Sandra
Like other reviewers, I found myself disappointed at the book's ending, and thought there were some issues with pacing as well, but it was otherwise a wonderful story, well told, with engaging characters and believable events. One felt these children were as much victims of their parents as they were of the war, but of course that is true of all of us. I actually found Nicolai's plight even more interesting than Ilse's, but both of these young people were enormously sympathetic and kept you read...more
Keith Slade
Really absorbing account of two young people caught in World War II. A girl was mostly in southern France, trying to avoid being picked up by the Gestapo since she was half-Jewish and had no papers, and a young boy was mostly in Hamburg, trying to survive with family from the horrible bombings, etc. This one is worthwhile. I was hoping the two characters would meet each other at the end, however.
Frances
Really wonderful. This follows two teenagers, Nicolai and Ilse, through WWII. Their stories intertwine, but they never meet. Charlesworth's writing is beautiful and captivating; she makes no concessions to convention. Complex and rich in historical detail. The story ends rather abruptly, but I'm glad she didn't let the ending feel contrived.
Elizabeth
A little slow starting but very interesting. This book is told by the view points of two different children on opposite sides of the war and how they survived. I was a little disappointed with the ending I guess I assumed that Nicolai and Ilse would end up meeting since he was obsessed with finding her.
Nelliel
An interesting book, yet some things leave the reader hanging. What really happened to many of the characters that were left unmentioned in the end. And also, what happened to Isle in the end.
I really think that the Author could have put a bit more into the ending and letting us know what happend then...
Stacy
I can't believe anyone would not like this book or found it slow to get started. I read a lot of WW II books and this was probably the best fiction on the topic that I have ever read. It might have been a couple of years ago now and I have been waiting for the sequel, there has to be a sequel.
Gill
I'm really enjoying this book. It's reminding me a little of Suite Francais by Irene Nemirovsky. Initially I found the girl's narrative more convincing and easier to follow than the boy's. Now I'm more enjoying the boy's.
Fiona


This was an okay read. I liked the concept but found the transfer between the two main characters stories disjointed and distracting. I'm glad I read it, but it's not one that I'm likely to turn back to.
Kylie Motxo
Not poetic and overly thought provoking as I usually enjoy, but a good story, and an interesting angle. Is an interesting thing to take a concept we may know, or think we know, then study from another angle.
Alice
It was a great read.... really makes you realize how whole generations had their lives changed during the war and how hard it was for them to live. I was a bit disappointed with the ending..
Cathy Graham
I had to return this to the library before going on vacation. I found it had an exciting beginning but started to drag in the middle so I wasn't too sad to give it back.

Tiffany Garcia
Book about a young girl in the middle of WW2 in Europe. It was a good story, but it was a little slow at times.
Nicole
I WAS 400% DONE WHEN I STARTED IT
Cris Anne Perez
Cris Anne Perez marked it as to-read
Sep 15, 2014
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