Elizabeth's Reviews > Mare's War

Mare's War by Tanita S. Davis
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bookshelves: friends-wrote-these, world-war-ii

So - another WWII novel - another Girl Book. This one is FANTASTIC. And you know what? It’s a Young Adult novel.

This is the story of a teen, Marey Lee Boylen, who joins the Women’s Army Corps and becomes one of the only group of American black women to be sent to Europe during the war. It’s framed as a road trip that Mare takes with her two teenaged granddaughters some 65 years later (ie, in the present day). So there’s a good amount of comparison between the journey of growth taken by all the young women, present and past.

It’s an exquisite book. The heroism here is quiet, honest, and unsung.

Feen say Aunt Shirley says not to speak to him on the street in public. Folks say it is bad enough that she is colored, but no patriotic American should be seen talking to a Jap. Feen says it don’t make her no difference whatsoever what kind of boy Tommy is. She says next time she sees him, she will buy him a Coke.

This little anecdote is pretty much an aside from the rest of the plot, but I think it represents the whole spirit of the book, filled with people who break the chain, who think for themselves - who change their world through small acts that require huge amounts of courage. Leaving home. Drinking from a forbidden water fountain. Buying a Japanese boy a Coke. And these acts of bravery are passed on down the generations as Mare encourages her granddaughter Octavia to learn to drive.

I also found Mare’s understated but heartfelt observations of wartorn Europe very moving - how everything is represented in little. The French postal assistants who faint because they’re so malnourished; the passers-by frozen in the street as a V1 flying bomb passes overhead, only to laugh at each other when it doesn’t go off nearby.

“Everywhere I am, I’ve got to do the best I can do right while I’m there, you know?”

I’ve come to the conclusion that the rules for accurate detail and good copy editing are more stringent in children’s publishing than they are in the adult world. It’s a bit like hiking. If you are a girl hiking with boys, you have to walk approximately 20 paces ahead to be considered to be keeping up. Likewise, if you are writing for “children,” you have to make sure you are not giving out factual errors. Mare’s War, as far as I can tell or know, reads as though the narrator was really there. But it’s fiction, and historical fiction. It’s not, as far as I know, based on experience. (Although I had to smile when Mare landed in Glasgow, which is where the displaced Calfornian author lives!)

I didn’t trip over anything in this book - I wouldn’t have known where to trip if I did. Mare’s voice was so wholly convincing that I didn’t doubt the authenticity of ANYTHING she said. And I liked the contrast of Mare’s essentially unschooled old-fashioned Southern voice with Octavia’s privileged middle-class modern voice. (And the author pulls it off with the effortless smoothness of Alice Walker.)

Gosh darn it, Tanita S. Davis, you are a genius. I can’t believe you made me CRY REAL TEARS OVER THE DEATH OF FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT.


Also, this is just to say that I think the cover for the paperback is FABULOUS. There is no racial waffling here: this is a BLACK WOMAN on the cover. She is hard and tough, wearing a tin GI’s helmet. She is feminine and beautiful, delicately applying lipstick from a gold tube. The lipstick *lights* her lips, making them glow red, rather than merely adding color to them. Her face is without expression. It is a perfect balance of strength and beauty; race comes into play but is not the focus of the image; it conveys the character of the protagonist AND hints at the plot. I love this cover.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
September 1, 2011 – Finished Reading
September 9, 2011 – Shelved
September 9, 2011 – Shelved as: friends-wrote-these
September 9, 2011 – Shelved as: world-war-ii

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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message 1: by Tanita (new)

Tanita Davis Wow, Liz.
That this comes from you is huge, oh ye who are THE WWII Girl Book Personage. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

message 2: by Elizabeth (new) - added it

Elizabeth give me a break. you wrote it and it's awesome!

Shannon Agree with you about the cover. I'd actually consider it as wall art.

Zazablossom Reads based on the reviews, this sounds like a good book. I hope I can read it soon!

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