I finished The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley quite a while ago, and I kept forgetting to blog about it, so here it is:
Ada and her brother, Jamie—along with hundreds of other children—are evacuated from London during World War II’s Battle of Britain. Unlike the other evacuated children, though, who miss their families and friends, both Ada and Jamie thrive. They’re out from under the shadow of their abusive mother and discover a whole new world. Ada finds that she’s not defined by her club foot, that she deserves love, and maybe, just maybe, she can find happiness.
I liked the book. I found it hard to get into, but it had some deep waters, and those are often difficult to wade through.
Ada is cynical and distrustful. She’s smart, but she’s been told she’s worthless and dumb her whole life, so actually believing her worth takes a leap of faith. Her character is so realistic, so true to her circumstances, that although her distrust annoyed me, it totally fit. After all, you can’t blame a dog for biting a friendly hand when up until that point hands only reached out to punish and bring pain.
Jamie was less well-defined, but he’s also younger and not the main character. He served as a great foil to Ada: he was what she wanted to protect, the only thing she loved, and he is what pushed her to better heights in herself.
Susan, the children’s temporary new guardian, was my favorite character. She’s rough around the edges, a little Scroogy on the outside, but inside she’s all soft possibilities. She wasn’t this benevolent figure that swooped in to save Ada and Jamie. She’s depressed and an unwilling guardian. She learns to love the children as they learn to love her. They bring out the best in her. They all save each other.
I’m not gonna line, the story dragged only to suddenly speed up and stop at the end. The pacing could be better. I mean, a lot better. I got bored there in the middle. And then the lead up, climax, and resolution all at once. I worked for that ended, and then it largely eluded me.
This book had beautiful, brilliant meaning. It was about love and courage and persistence, about the strength from within that can conquer our demons. It’s about the family we choose rather than just the family we’re given. It’s inspiring:
“It had been awful, but I hadn’t quit. I had persisted. In battle I had won.”
“I wanted to say a lot of things, but, as usual, I didn’t have the words for the thoughts inside my head.”
I can relate. Words on paper come much easier to me than words aloud.
This book had an upbeat, uplifting message and real (somewhat likable—that’s how you know they’re real) characters. The good parts totally overshadowed the plot problems and helped illustrate an aspect of World War II that’s often ignored or downplayed in favor of the flashier ones.