The Skylark’s War

I was reading chapter 8 in The Skylark’s War by Hilary McKay when I had a moment of deja vu – I’ve read this book before. I searched the archives – no record.

Then I realized I had dozens of reviews on social media I am working on getting onto my blog. I scanned through that document and voila! There it was – I had read The Skylark’s War before! But under its original title, Love to Everyone.

Clarry Penrose is almost too good to be true. She’s a happy child, despite the fact that her mother died when she was three days old, her brother Peter is terrifically irritable and her father basically ignores her.

The highlight of her year is traveling to Cornwall to visit her grandparents – her father’s parents. Not because her grandparents are affectionate, but because of the freedom of running through the countryside, and the joy of seeing Rupert, her cousin.

Clarry’s sweet disposition never changes – even as the world changes around her. Her heart expands to love Simon, the giraffe of a boy who becomes friends with Rupert and Peter at school, and Simon’s sister Vanessa.

While at home, Peter slyly tutors her, asking for her ‘help’ with his homework. As she grows, Peter and Vanessa encourage her to attend a high school for girls, despite her father’s resistance.

Then the Great War erupts. At first, it hardly touches Clarry. But she slowly loses her insular bubble, and understands the desperate horror – especially once Rupert is missing at the front.

Here’s what I wrote when I first read this book:

“This small book follows Clarry’s life from birth to young adulthood – through the frustrations of being a girl in the early 1900’s, World War 1, and defying expectations to attend Oxford.

Through it all, Clarry continues to be herself. She continues to love her extremely distant father, worry about her older brother and makes some unexpected, life-long friends.

I love that Clarry is pushed, aggressively by Peter and more gently by others, to further her education. Which she does over her father’s objections.

Some notes for parents: Clarry’s good friend, Simon, is in love with Rupert, her cousin. Both end up on the front lines during WWI – the descriptions of the horrors are accurate, not sensational, but still can be disturbing for sensitive readers.”

Highly, highly recommended for ages 12 and up.

Keep the tissues close – I cried at the end both times I read this book. It’s so bittersweet.

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