Theresa Breslin. Remembrance. Random House, 2002. ISBN 978-0552547383 304 pp. $
This historical novel examines war and peace from the varied points of view of five friends and neighbors coming of age during World War II. John Malcolm gets enlists with enthusiasm, while pacifist Francis resists as long as he can and young Alex lies about his age to get into the army. Charlotte gets involved in nursing in spite of her family’s disapproval, while Maggie takes advantages of new opportunities for women and for her own self education. Amidst the social and political upheavals, life goes on, love blossoms, and loved ones are lost and mourned.
Period details are sensory and realistic, and the characters and situation are both true to the time yet have a classic tone that will make this book readable a hundred years from now.
The current crisis in the Middle East makes this a timely novel. As our leaders make those opposing war with Iraq feel unAmerican, Breslin affirms over and over that peace is the only solution, from Francis’s “disloyal talk” on page 6: “What makes a human being want to kill another who has done him no personal harm? Patriotism.” to Alex’s admission on page 291 that “killing can sicken the soul.”
The writing is lovely even in the most inhumane scenes of battle. Breslin presents all angles smoothly while leaving the reader with the haunting notion that in spite of the memorials and parades and flowers that stress the importance of remembering our mistakes, we still seem doomed to repeat them.
Suitable for classroom use in World War II units.