NOT A SWAN by Michelle Magorian


Age Range: 14 & up
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 The author of Good Night, Mr. Tom (1982) returns to WW II with a story about three genteel British sisters, on their own when the woman hired to care for them is suddenly drafted. Though Diana, 21, Lettie, 19, and protagonist Rose, almost 18, are also old enough for war service, their sheltered education has left them unprepared for practical tasks. Still, Mum (an actress performing for the troops) is out of reach, Dad has recently been killed, and--after dithering about impropriety--they seize the chance for independence. The primitive vacation cottage is a challenge; more significantly, village life awakens them to the realities of relations between the sexes in wartime. Diana makes friends with an unwed mother, to Lettie's horror; at first equally judgmental, Rose comes to champion the girl whose own parents have disowned her. Reading a diary account of the tragic WW I romance of their cottage's deceased owner, ``Mad Hilda''; observing Diana's sudden, deep love for a soldier on leave; her own clumsy first bedding with a callow youth who urges his suit on the grounds that he's sure to die soon--all prepare Rose for a sweet, more mature relationship with Alec, a shell-shocked Dunkirk hero who shares her literary inclinations. With a satisfyingly dramatic plot (including the reappearance as an adult of the child so cruelly wrenched from Hilda long ago), plenty of likable characters, an authentic, vividly evoked setting, and several contrasting love stories- -especially Rose and Alec's tenderly warming friendship--an unusually engrossing and memorable novel. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: Aug. 30th, 1992
ISBN: 0-06-024214-0
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1992