Author: Michelle Sloan
Finished on: 15 February 2017
Where did I get this book: Sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review
One of my granddads was in the Special Boat Service during World War Two. He did extraordinary things, carried out acts of unimaginable bravery and survived events of unimaginable trauma. He died when I was four, but I remember vividly the faded blue tattoos on his arms; sitting with him doing dot-to-dots; the smell of his pipe.
My other granddad was a radar engineer in the Royal Air Force, and was stationed in India for much of the war. He too is dead now, but he was hugely important to me; one of the first people who ever listened to me like I might have something to say worth hearing. But he had endured hardship, and lived through that war, that seems so far away now.
I am ashamed that I never asked my grandmothers what they did during the war. They are both also dead, and now I really wish I knew.
For my children’s generation, there is almost nobody left around to tell them real, personal accounts of those extraordinary times. Not that my grandparents were exactly keen to talk about their experiences during the war, but snippets of their stories would come out from time to time. And there’s no doubt that it was an inescapable part of who they were.
This is what makes books like The Revenge Of Tirpitz important. There were real people, living through real events, that have shaped the world we live in today.
The German battleship Tirpitz was stationed in Nazi-occupied Norway in the Second World War. And in 1944 it was attacked from the air by British Lancaster bomber aeroplanes, and capsized.
This is the real event that Michelle Sloan fictionalises in this book for young adults.
Sloan uses the narrative device of setting the book across both 1944 and 2014, although we don’t find out until towards the end exactly how the two plot strands are related. It is a clever technique that draws us into the story through capitalising on very distance most of us feel now from World War Two. And the ambiguity about which of the 1944 characters we’re meeting in 2014 adds another layer of interest.
As the story moves towards its roller coaster of a denouement, it becomes so gripping I genuinely couldn’t put it down. This is a great page-turner of a book, and Sloan is to be admired for bringing the events of 1944 bang up to date for today’s young adult audience.
My 11 year old daughter also read this book, and while she enjoyed it very much, it won’t surprise frequent readers of this blog that having recently expressed her annoyance at all books for young adults being about ‘stroppy teenage boys’, the fact this story is populated pretty much entirely by men and boys annoyed her. And she’s right to object to this.
But Sloan is far from alone in focusing on the experiences of men in wartime. As illustrated by the fact that I (embarrassingly) know what my granddads, but not my grandmothers, did during the war. This books does a great job of making stories of World War Two feel real and relevant to us today. Next, let’s hear what the women were up to.