Saturday, 3 September 2016

Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders

If you’ve read and enjoyed E. Nesbit’s Five Children and It you’ll enjoy this. It is a sequel, written much later and it is also somewhat darker. It was the winner of the Costa Book Awards 2014. Great news indeed that a children’s book has won that prize.
We meet the same children as before. Cyril, Robert, Jane and Anthea are now grown up.  The Lamb is now a young boy and a further sibling, Eddie, has appeared. The Psammead, the sand fairy, is back too, though considerably less powerful than before and bringing with him a rather dark past.
A prologue presents us with an interim visit, just two years after the first, in which he takes them forward to 1930. The children see photos of themselves as grown-ups and notice that the older boys are missing. Adults reading the story may have a frightening insight at this point. Children may not understand what this means. However, this proves to be not too much of a spoiler.
Kate Saunders retains the atmosphere of the earlier Nesbit novels. Of course we still have upper middle class southerners. Times are changing, however, under the influence of the Great War. There are changes, too, for the sand fairy.  
A very satisfying read all told.