Postcards from No Man's Land

by Aidan Chambers

Winner of the 1999 Carnegie Medal, this complex novel elegantly melds the contemporary... read more

Winner of the 1999 Carnegie Medal, this complex novel elegantly melds the contemporary experiences of 17-year-old Jacob with those of his grandfather, a British soldier also named Jacob who was killed in Holland in 1944. Recently arrived in Holland to attend a ceremony commemorating the battle at Arnhem in which his grandfather fought, Jacob feels displaced and confused. His thoughts and impressions are constantly evolving, as many of his initial impressions of people and places prove incorrect. Jacob’s story, in the form of “postcard” chapters, alternates with his grandfather’s tale, narrated by Geertrui, a Dutch woman who fell in love with the wounded (and married) soldier, later giving birth to his child. The fog surrounding Jacob’s trip begins to lift as he learns of his grandfather’s wartime love affair, and meets the aunt and cousin he never knew he had. He also meets Geertrui, who is dying of cancer. The intricate plot across generations is just one aspect of this ambitious work, which raises questions about loyalty, euthanasia, art, age, and family. Mature sexual content includes a frank discussion of simultaneous relationships Jacob’s cousin maintains with a male and a female partner. Jacob finds himself sexually attracted to both a young man and a young woman he meets on his trip, and shows an openness to exploring both of these potential relationships. (Age 16 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2003

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