Nisha’s War by Dan Smith

Look For The Light

Nisha’s War by Dan Smith is a terrific children’s historical novel, for ages ten years and over. It is a book that will educate you as you read, whilst also entertaining.

The novel is set in 1942 on Barrow Island in the north east of England. There is a secondary location of a rubber plantation in Malaysia in 1941. We ‘hear’ of events in Malaysia and Singapore as the Japanese invaded. These are written down in Nisha’s journal.

Nisha and her mother left their lives behind, fleeing with only the clothes they wore. We hear how terrifying it was as Japanese planes strafed civilians and the chaos at the docks in Singapore. The welcome from Nisha’s paternal grandmother is rather cold.

Life in Malaysia was bright and colourful. In contrast, life on Barrow Island is cold and grey. There is a veil of heaviness that has nothing to do with Hitler’s bombs.

Fear has imprisoned characters, along with its’ partners, guilt and regret. Nisha has a terrible guilty secret weighing her down. She learns that she is not alone. “Children weren’t the only ones to have worries. They weren’t the only ones to have fear and guilt and pain and sadness.” Lives are burdened and grey.

Nisha has much to be fearful about after her experiences fleeing Malaysia. She does not believe that she is brave but “being brave isn’t about not being scared. It’s about being scared but finding a way to carry on.”

We are not in control of what others think of us, but we are in control of our responses. “Nisha decided to be kind, no matter how horrible her grandmother might seem.”

In times of war, we need hope. “We must never give up hope … sometimes hope is all we have.” Hope helps us to press on through the darkness. Hope enables us to see the light ahead.

All the characters were well drawn and realistic. They were easy to empathise with. The reader ‘felt’ the isolation Nisha experienced when she came to Barrow Island, both physically and mentally. Not only was she in a new place but the villagers treated her as an oddity, a ‘foreigner’ in times of war. We also understand her grandmother’s actions as her life is governed by fear and sadness.

I thoroughly enjoyed Nisha’s War. I always love Dan Smith’s books. I will leave you with my favourite quote:

“Sometimes, when words are not enough, a hug is the only way to tell someone you care.”


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