Friday January 4, 2013
Love and war
Review by PHYLLIS HO
A teenager sets out on a journey to find lost love and ends up in the middle of a war.
A World Between Us
Author: Lydia Syson
Publisher: Hot Key Books, 263 pages
I HAD to keep reminding myself to breathe as my eyes moved along the pages. It had never crossed my mind before that historical fiction could be this gripping but I have to say, I found A World Between Us to be an enjoyable read indeed.
Lydia Syson’s debut novel is set during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).
Felix, a 17-year-old female nurse who happens to be on the London street where the Fascists are on a protest march, is asked to help when an accident occurs and Nat is injured.
Attending to the serious young man who is eager to fight for justice in Spain, Felix finds herself fascinated and agrees to meet Nat later. Soon their friendship blossoms into love – but the fledgling relationship is tested when Nat leaves for Spain to join the International Brigades.
Blinded by love, Felix decides to volunteer with organisations providing medical aid in Spain, hoping to see Nat again.
It might seem like a rash decision, but you can’t gainsay this teenger’s courage in exchanging her comfort zone for something as scary and uncertain as a war – this is definitely not your average girl-next-door. Though she is something of a girl-next-door to George, her longtime family friend and loyal admirer, who promises her family that he will investigate her sudden disappearance and bring her home safely.
All three of the protagonists end up in the same region but can’t find each other – which I found slowed things down a bit. But things pick up again when Felix and Nat stumble upon each other again.
For me, the climax is when the friendship between Felix and a Spanish nurse takes an unexpected twist, leaving Felix questioning her own judgment of right and wrong.
I absolutely fell in love with Syson’s descriptive writing that paints the characters’ hopes, dreams and doubts so vividly along with the intense and gruesome images of the war. It was definitely an eye-opener for me, as I was transported to a period of time that I had not known much about.
Readers will easily grasp the tragic yet compelling story of how even with the struggles of surviving in a war-torn country, volunteers from all over the world continued to unite to defend Spain.
What makes the novel interesting and mysterious at the same time is its unpredictable plot. I thought I had it all figured out, but Syson cleverly diverted my original train of thought while evoking in me a considerable amount of fear for the characters.
The story is written in the third person but Syson has the ability to take readers into the minds of each main character easily with the protagonist role interchanging in every chapter between Felix, Nat and George. By doing this, Felix’s conflicted heart is clearly portrayed, though in the end, she seems to have no difficulty choosing one guy over the other (not telling who though!) as the war draws to a close.
A World Between Us is a wonderful book worthy of your time, and it is one that I would recommend to my friends. I applaud Syson for bringing to light such important turns of events in the world’s history within a teen novel. Though the one thing that I am a little apprehensive about is that a younger reader might feel a tad overwhelmed by all the history.