Stay Where You Are And Then Leave by John Boyne is a powerful YA historical novel set during World War I.
The reader follows five year old Alfie at the outbreak of war. The book is told in the third person but from his point of view.
Alfie is wise and brave beyond his years, recognising that he is the man of the family when his father leaves for war. He understands far more than the adults around him give him credit for.
With the men away at war and no welfare state, money is tight. Women have to have several jobs just to survive. Alfie does what he can to help.
We witness the impact of war on a community. The losses are felt by all, as the families dread the sight of telegrams or officers knocking on their door. Alfie’s mother wants to protect him and does not tell him the whole story about his father. This creates even more anxiety in him.
Conscientious Objectors were treated appallingly by the community who had previously embraced them. Their war was far from easy as they were figuratively and literally trampled on.
Those who roots were foreign were viewed with suspicion and often incarcerated for the duration of the war.
Shell shock was not known at the start of the war. This terrible condition affected many and it is awful to witness men whose minds are left on the battlefield. John Boyne has perfectly captured a mind unravelling. Those who were affected needed love, care, compassion and understanding to be nursed back to life.
This novel is a powerful read as we see the impact of war on a family. It is extremely well written and the atmosphere well captured and communicated with the reader. I always find John Boyne’s books powerful reads.