An English girl whose mother is German is ensnared by her neighbors’ bigotry and by apparent treason at the onset of World War II.
Twelve-year-old Petra lives in a lighthouse on the coast of England, so close to Europe that she can see right across to France on a clear day. When the war begins, some of the villagers—her neighbors for her entire life—behave abominably to Petra’s family. Her German-born mother is accused of treason and sent to an internment camp, and though Petra is confident of Mutti’s innocence, someone has been sending state secrets to the Nazis. Could it be that Petra’s nearest and dearest aren’t what they seem? No one in her family is acting normally. The stakes seem to rise slowly, coming to a breaking point as Petra’s personal tragedies intertwine with the grim reality of the Dunkirk evacuation. The (historically accurate) increasing maltreatment of the town’s German-British and Italian-British families increases Petra’s sense of dislocation in her previously cozy village setting (characters are all white). Strange’s deft hand with the had-I-but-known flavor of foreshadowing maintains a beautifully eerie, slightly gothic tone (occasionally at the expense of a believable 12-year-old voice).
The slow dismantling of Petra’s faith in her loved ones adds a delicious instability to the growing unease of this WWII thriller. (Historical fiction. 11-14)