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February 2016: World War II > The Welsh Girl - Peter Ho Davies - 4 stars

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message 1: by Jgrace (last edited Feb 28, 2016 05:24PM) (new)

Jgrace | 2763 comments The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies


The Welsh Girl - Peter Ho Davies
4 stars

World War 2 brings changes to a small Welsh village. Some of the young men leave to fight and do not return. Undisciplined, evacuated London children are billeted to area sheep farms. And towards the end of the war, the hated British invade to build a ‘secret’ base. Following the D-day invasion the secret is out. It’s to be a prisoner of war camp. There is a second invasion of German prisoners. The day to day troubles of the Welsh girl, Esther; Karsten, the German POW; and Jim, the London evacuee are weighed against the fate of another more infamous prisoner, in a different part of Wales, Rudolf Hess.

All of the characters in this story are struggling to come to terms with issues of honor, loyalty, guilt, and national identity. The pack behavior of village schoolboys who taunt the prisoners from outside the fence is contrasted with more lethal pack behavior inside the fence. Esther’s desire for a wider world than her small village forces her to some difficult decisions and a contemplation of honor from a woman’s perspective. Karstan is forced to reexamine everything he thought he was fighting for.

This story was slow, wandering, and inconclusive in many ways. I liked it because it did not provide easy answers or a tidy ending. It made me think.

Some quotes:

“The Jews, he knew, had no homeland, yearned for one, and yet as he understood it to be the source of their victimization, it seemed at once to be such pure freedom to be without a country”.

”This is what men will never understand , she realizes, …...Their dishonor, men’s dishonor, can always be redeemed, defeat followed by victory, capture by escape, escape by capture. …
But women are dishonored once and for all. Their only hope is to hide it. To keep it to themselves”.


“Sometimes it feels like they’re all linked somehow, the losses, like a chain, one death coupled to the next, and the next, whichever side they’re on.”


message 2: by Olivermagnus (new)

 Olivermagnus (lynda214) | 1958 comments The characters look very interesting. I'm going to find a copy next time I'm in the WWII mood.


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