They’ve gone now, and I’m alone at last.
The stories of Michael Morpurgo often feature an element or setting of wartime. His beautiful writing style and original perspective are perfect for tackling this sometimes harrowing part of history with intelligence and respect.
Private Peaceful is a story told by Tommo Peaceful, a Private serving in World War One, as he reflects on how he and his brother got to where they are and where they are going the next day. Tommo tells their story as a series of recollections during the night, detailing their lives in an incredibly natural narrative, with each chapter marking the passing of time and counting down to the morn.
Through the eyes of a younger brother you explore a life of countryside, first loves, losses and learning – all done under the protective gaze of older brother Charlie. The coming of the war threatens to separate this amazing relationship and yet the two brothers, three years apart, go as ‘twins’ into training, and later, battle.
Morpurgo’s Private Peaceful is an utter masterpiece, one that creates a narrative voice that is second to none. Through Tommo you discover his family and through their actions you understand him. Morpurgo brings light to a wartime atrocity that affected many, one that isn’t widely spoken of, in a masterful manner – not offensively or with vitriol but pure, simple and honest.
I don’t want to give too much of the story away as it really is a must read (you will probably need to have the tissues close by though – I do every time!). Morpurgo is one of my favourite children’s authors and Private Peaceful, as one of his first YA novels, really is one of his best.
For all the soldiers, past and present, wear your poppy with pride and remember them.