Book of the Week – March 3, 2008
Tamar by Mal Peet – This lengthy Carnegie Medal-winning novel is masterfully crafted, written in cinematic prose, and peopled by well-drawn, multidimensional characters. Intense and riveting, it is a mystery, a tale of passion, and a drama about resistance fighters in the Netherlands during World War II. The story unfolds in parallel narratives, most told by an omniscient narrator describing the resistance struggle, and fewer chapters as a narrative told by 15-year-old Tamar, the granddaughter of one of the resistance fighters. The locale and time shift between Holland in 1944 and ’45 and England in 1995. The constant dangers faced by the resistance fighters as well as their determination to succeed in liberating their country from German occupation come vividly to life. Dart, Tamar, and Marijke are the main characters in this part of the book. Their loyalty to one another and the movement is palpable though love and jealousy gradually enter the story and painfully change the dynamics. Other characters jeopardize the safety of the group and intensify the life-threatening hazards they face. Peet deftly handles the developing intrigue that totally focuses readers. After her beloved grandfather commits suicide, modern-day Tamar is determined to undercover the mystery contained in a box of seemingly unrelated objects that he has left for her. Peet keeps the story going back and forth in time, and readers must wait till the end of this intricate book to understand fully what happened to these courageous people. This is an extraordinary, gripping novel. — Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ (from Amazon).