Private Peaceful by Michael Morpugo
In the midst of the first World War, Thomas Peaceful is holding a night-long vigil. As he waits, he remembers his childhood in rural England, far away but not so very long ago. There’s his older brother Charlie, who watched over him on his first day of school, and has always looked out for him. There’s his father’s death, and how Charlie has always blamed himself for it, his simple brother Joe, and his hardworking mum’s battles with his class-conscious grandmother. And his unrequited love for his childhood friend Molly. Eventually, past catches up to present, and fifteen year old Tommy lies about his age and enlists along with Charlie. The brothers go off to war, and as we catch up with Tommy in the trenches, we learn exactly what it is he’s waiting for in the morning.
All sorts of adjectives come to mind. Complex. Multi-layered. Tragic. Moving. I’m not just throwing out random words, they all apply. (And I expect no less–Michael Morpugo is a former UK Children’s Laureate.) This is vivid picture of the pieces of a life, and a profound and moving look at honour, loyalty, and obligation.