Rose, 17, and her older sisters have been evacuated from wartime London to a seaside village. In addition to getting along with out adults or servants, they grow to accept and appreciate one another and the `ordinary’ people around them. Rose’s friendship with an unwed mother, her observation of her sisters’ romances, the diary of an Edwardian woman, a relationship in which she is sexually used, and, finally, her improbable romance with a war hero in his mid-twenties, all add to her maturation. By observation and experience, she comes to realize the difference between love and infatuation. She also becomes her own person as she makes the transition from an adolescent into an independent young writer.
It is the summer of 1943 and war continues to rage. For Rose and her sister Diana, it’s a time of independence and self-discovery as they find first loves. But when Rose unearths a love story from another war, she realises that wartime intensifies emotions, and maybe she isn’t in love with Derry as she first thought she was. Rose is about to discover a secret that will change everything…Curl up on a sofa or take this book to the beach. This is a wonderful love story to escape into. (From Goodreads.com)
I read Michelle Magorian’s most famous novel, Goodnight Mister Tom, a long, long time ago…over twenty years ago in fact. I remember being deeply affected at the time and it being the first book that made me cry. I remember the beautiful imagery she evoked and the wistfulness of a time gone by, woven with the hard-hitting serious subject of child abuse and neglect.
A Little Love Song is exactly the same in many respects. Two young women evacuated from London to the British rural south coast, life appears slower paced and gentler. I love the quaintness of the language and attitudes of the quintessential British middle class during this time. Set over one summer, it’s one we’ve all yearned for, warm sunny weather, swimming in the ocean and spending days on the beach, picnics with jam sandwiches…it’s almost Blytonesque at times.
But as with Goodnight Mr Tom, it’s not all whimsy and there are several, somewhat unexpected, serious topics to be found and thought about. The whole book revolves around relationships and love, and what that actually means. While observing the effect of love and relationships on those around her and her own experience, Rose is forced to revaluate societies expectations on the subject, which during wartime seem less realistic. From her new friend, a single expecting mother who’s beloved has been killed in action before they can marry leaving her in a difficult position, to her sisters fledgling romance with the handsome soldier about to set off to war. Then there’s the diary she finds telling a love story from the first war…my favourite part of the book. A Little Love Song also tells the not so great side of relationships, as a confused Rose is used and betrayed. This surprised me in it’s honesty, we all know that first love isn’t always a bed of roses but rarely get to hear about it so brutally in Young Adult books.
I loved Rose’s journey in this book, as she matures and learns who she really is, growing into a confident young woman in a time when values and morals are changing faster than they ever have before. There are some scenes of a sexual nature, although not overtly explicit, as well as childbirth so this book may not be suitable for younger readers, but I’d definitely recommend it to those age 13y and up. While set in and evoking a time past, there’s a lot of relevance in this book to teens today regarding relationships and it’s both beautiful, romantic and thought provoking all at once. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and definitely recommend.
Published by Egmont UK May 2008