Saturday, December 1, 2012

Review: Without Warning - Dennis Hamley

Without Warning by Dennis Hamley
Genre: YA, historical fiction
Published on October 9, 2007
Published by Candlewick Press
Pages: 336
Read From: 11.20.12 - 11.23.12

England, 1914 
The piercing tone of the bugle changes a sleepy British village and Ellen Wilkins forever. It is the call to enlist - a chance Ellen's brother, Jack, won't miss. And that call also puts Ellen into motion as she leaves the safety
of her home and family for the first time. This remarkable journey of self-discovery and responsibility takes Ellen as close to the front lines as women are allowed to go as she embarks on her true calling as a war-time nurse.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Yes. Since it is a wartime novel, it fit’s the story, and I like covers that give me a sense of what the story is about. The girl’s face isn’t too defined, and she isn’t starting right at me, so I’m okay with that as well.

Characters: Ellen doesn’t start out as a very memorable protagonist. She’s neither unlikable nor especially lovable; just average. The sort of person who you say, “Oh, yeah, I like her.” Someone who doesn’t leave an especially deep impression on you. But as the story progresses, she begins to stand out more, especially when she goes to France as a wartime nurse, and her strong, caring, and brave personality takes front and center.

The Romance: While Ellen has a sweetheart - Archie - who goes off to war, and then later befriends Völger, a wounded German soldier at the war hospital, there isn’t all that much romance. It doesn’t become a major focus beyond a couple of friendly conversations and letters. If the romance had taken up a bit more of the story, I don’t think I would have minded all that much. Both Archie and Völger were very likable young men.

Plot: The storyline has a very linear, day-to-day progression. There is no specific plot, no villains beyond a couple of people in Ellen’s village who are especially zealous in their hatred for the Germans. The Reader just follows Ellen along at this iconic moment in time. It’s what I like to call a “lifetime story.” Which makes it a very relaxing read. There isn’t a complicated, fast-paced, twisty storyline to keep track of, and sometimes that can be nice. The story picks up a bit more in pace when Ellen goes to France, but it is still a pretty easy stroll.

Believability: I have nothing to complain about when it comes to historical fact and physical wounds. The Author seems to know quite well what he is talking about. His portrayals of Ellen’s family coping with Jack’s broken spirit after he returns from the front is realistic and heart-wrenching, and his imagery of the war itself brings it to stark reality for the Reader.

Writing Style: The narration is in present-tense, but the majority of the story is, in fact, Ellen flashing back to something that happened earlier in the day, so most of it is actually in present-tense, and sort of reads like a journal. I happen to really like stories told in the form of a journal, and with this it worked quite well.

Content: The Author isn’t graphic with the violence of WWI, except in a couple of scenes. But when Ellen goes to the hospital in France, it does become a bit of a brutal read.

Conclusion: I liked that the story actually ended on a foreshadowing of what is to come in later years - that is, World War II. My thoughts of the book overall are: it was a good, relaxing fiction set in an era that has always fascinated me. While Ellen isn’t the most memorable protagonist, she does become more so as the story progresses, and she is never unlikable. It’s an excellent read for a rainy day when you kind of want a bittersweet historical fiction that doesn’t have a complicated storyline. I enjoyed it immensely.

Recommended Audience: Girl-read, fans of “the war at home” stories - that is, stories that take place in WWI or WWII, but mostly occur in England, and not on the battlefront. Appropriate for ages fourteen and up.

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