A coming-of, age tale--this one set in the British countryside during WW II--that vanquishes stereotypes and movingly presents some hard lessons in loyalty. Ellie lives in the shadow of her beautiful older sister Johanna, who--despite her pretensions, silliness, and lies--usually gets the boy she wants. Both sisters, who have been sent from London to their cousins' ""safe"" home, love Curt, an Austrian refugee helping on the farm. Johanna sees the war in absolute terms: Ellie, who hopes to be a nurse, realizes that it may solidify what were previously nonexistent lines. Curt's pledge is to Germany; when a German plane crashes, he helps the wounded pilot, placing his life and Ellie's in danger and ending up in prison camp. This bittersweet time of excitement and loss is warmly evoked and sharply delineated; Ellie takes each breath as if it were her last, describing it down to the scent of newly mown hay. Her quiet heroism triumphs so solidly over Johanna's maddening impulsiveness that the reader is sure to empathize with her thriving new compassion and maturity. A strong debut.