First Lines: Lorna Anderson was ankle deep in muck and milk. And she was late. Again.
I read Leech’s second book a few months back and adored it. It convinced me that I needed to read this book pronto. I mean, it could have been the phone book and I probably would have read it.
For Lorna, 1945 isn’t any different than the last few years of war. Rationing, the occasional air raids, knitting scarves for the Red Cross, and helping out on the farm while her brothers are away soldiering. When Paul Vogel, a German prisoner of war, is assigned to help on their farm, Lorna is appalled. Her country is fighting men like Paul–how can she be expected to work alongside him? But as Lorna spends time with Paul, she finds her mind changing. The more she learns about him, the more she sees the person he is. And soon, Lorna begins battling herself–loving Paul means leaving behind what she’s been taught, and maybe leaving her home. What is she willing to sacrifice when they’ve both already sacrificed so much?
The fact that it was about German POWs in Scotland (rather than, say, a phone book) was a bonus. It’s absolutely fascinating to see where German POWs were sent. Some were even working farms in my hometown in the Midwest. Distant family members of mine used them as farm hands and warned their children away from talking to them or they’d get them in their sleep (like the boogeyman).
The characters, from the main to the minor, are all such a joy. We obviously get to know Lorna the best. She’s a bit aimless, 17 years old and about to graduate from high school with no other goal in mind than helping her father work the farm until her brothers return from service. She’s also stubborn and fiercely independent, which sets her apart from a number of female characters in the story. We also get to know Paul pretty well. He’s 19, a hard worker, quiet, and, of course, a German POW sent to work on Lorna’s family farm.
As for the minor characters, they run the gambit from quirky and silly to pensive and observant. Each character has their own distinct personality. I adored that I felt a connection with each one.
The story is fraught with tension, as you might expect. It’s near the end of World War II and hostilities are strong. Throw some German prisoners into the position where they need to work alongside people who identify as Allies and the trouble begins. On top of that story line, Lorna has some typical coming-of-age problems she’s dealing with. So while it was tense, it was an enjoyable tension.
Leech’s writing style is just so flowing. Before I know it, I’ve read a couple of chapters and been sucked back into the story despite the fact that I only had a few minutes.
This was just lovely. I can’t wait to read whatever she writes next.