Thursday, 12 March 2015

Tamar - Mal Peet

On the cover of the paperback I read, beneath the title, are the words "A story of secrecy and survival".  And indeed it is - but so much more.  There are two stories here quite separate by the calendar but intertwined by family.  Tamar is a fifteen year old girl, and even before she is born, her grandfather urges her father to name her Tamar.

Tamar was the code name of a WW2  SOE (Special Operations Europe) officer.  Dutch, trained in England, together with his wireless operator Dart.  These two men were dropped, over Holland, in the dead of night together with wireless equipment and some other things that helped with their disguises, and they made it.  Two things had to be done - one was to tie up all the rag-bag ends of the Dutch resistance and make them work together so that Operation Pegasus could go ahead; and the other to send and receive messages to England about the current situation in their area. This is a book where fact and fiction are so skillfully woven together it's hard to see the join, and the war-time and current-time chapters are easily delineated.

Tamar's father disappeared when she was quite young.  Just disappeared.  No-one found out what happened to him.  So Tamar became very close to her grandparents, who took the load off her mother.  When she was fifteen her grandfather died - a suicide - and he left a shoe box with a very odd selection of things for her.  Some money, a half finished crossword, three maps, an identity booklet........what use was any of that now that her beloved grandfather was gone?

It's not an easy read.  Peet wrote this for YA readers, but it should appeal to any age of adult.  It describes the end few months of WW2, with the Nazis desperately hanging on in Holland; where some truly dreadful things did happen; where food was desperately scarce; where the strangest of bedfellows fell into each other's company.  At 400+ pages it's a fat paperback, but I had no trouble demolishing it in a 24 hour period.  Glad I did too, and if other Mal Peet books pass my radar I will not dismiss them.  Recommended.

See next post down for a word or two about Mal Peet and a link to his obituary.