Stay Where You Are And Then Leave (Anglais) Broché – 26 septembre 2013
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Revue de presse
"John Boyne's children's novels tackle difficult subjects . . . and this latest book looks at the horrors of trench warfare in World War 1. With the anniversary of that war next year, this is a timely examination of moral, physical and mental bravery and pain" (Daily Mail)
"Beautifully paced and affecting" (The Bookseller)
"Stay Where You Are and Then Leave is beautifully written, as are all John Boyne's books for children. Although it's a book aimed primarily at younger readers, it's equally as satisfying for adults, and should be widely read by everyone" (Wondrous Reads)
"A beautifully paced and affecting tale" (Independent on Sunday)
Présentation de l'éditeur
The day the First World War broke out, Alfie Summerfield's father promised he wouldn't go away to fight - but he broke that promise the following day. Four years later, Alfie doesn't know where his father might be, other than that he's away on a special, secret mission.
Then, while shining shoes at King's Cross Station, Alfie unexpectedly sees his father's name - on a sheaf of papers belonging to a military doctor. Bewildered and confused, Alfie realises his father is in a hospital close by - a hospital treating soldiers with an unusual condition. Alfie is determined to rescue his father from this strange, unnerving place . . .
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John Boyne has written a moving and, at times, wrenching story of The Great War and its impact on those back home. While the war is a looming presence in the background, this book is mostly about the love for one's family and friends, Through Alfie's naïve observations of events unfolding around him we get to see the strain and the fear felt by the adults around him. Alfie is not immune to all this.While our young hero does not always understand the events, he is observant and has a deep drive to do what must be done to make things right for those he loves best. He knows his mother is struggling to make ends meet and he tries to do his part to help her. He wants to help his father and does what he can to correct what he sees as a terrible wrong.
Boyne writes in a simple narrative style and yet he manages to fill this slim volume with much fodder for thought. The petty racisms, the fear, the prejudice and the meanness that rise up in the people around Alfie are balanced, more often than not, by those striving to hold on to their dignity and kindness. Shell-shock, or Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, first gained recognition as a diagnosis during WWI. Initially ridiculed and treated with contempt it was a diagnosis that many sought to hide and to cope with it was lonely battle. Boyne does an excellent job portraying the mentality of the time when PTSD was something shameful and deserving of ridicule. The book does seem a bit rushed at the end and we do not get a clear picture of how Georgie (Alfie's dad) slowly improves and how Alfie's life regains some sense of normalcy. Pat Barker treats the same subject and time period at greater depth in her Regeneration trilogy which is definitely not a series for young readers.
The book is being marketed as a 'Book for young readers' and McMillan recommends it for ages 9-12. I would say that this is a book more suitable for Grades 9 to 12 - High School or, at a stretch, middle school since, while not violent compared to some books for young adults, there is an underlying thread of violence and trauma that could be very disturbing for the younger child or more sensitive reader. There are references to impotence, suicide, an abusive parent, violence in prisons and much more that could raise many disturbing questions in the mind of the younger reader. Alfie may be aged 9 in this book but I would think twice before handing this book to a 9 year old to read.
Having said that though, I do think this is an important book that can help our children gain a deeper appreciation not only of the experience of war but also of familial love and ties that hold us together through thick or thin.
When England declares war on Germany, it was Alfie Summerfield's fifth birthday, July 28th 1914. It had an immediate impact. Most of his friends were prevented from attending birthday party. He lives with his parents Georgie, the local milkman, and his mother Margie. Alfie’s grandmother Summerfield lives close by. Alfie's best friend, Kalena Janacek, lives nearby, just down the street. Kalena’s father owns the local shop. Joe Patience is the best friend of Alfie’s father. His father leaves home to join duty and trains at Aldershot. It was an eventful time in history but young Alfie couldn’t quite comprehend what it was all about.
Georgie didn’t return home but kept sending letters regularly. And soon the letters stopped coming. To calm him Margie tells Alfie his dad is on a secret mission, and couldn’t write letters. However, Alfie was now able to understand the situation and thought his father is dead, and that his mother was hiding the truth from him. Life is becoming more and more difficult for Alfie and his mother. Alfie made up his mind to help his mother. He sneaks into Kalena’s house while they were being interned on the Isle of Wight, took Janacek’s shoeshine box and start shining shoes to earn some money.
Four years passed by and there is still no sign of Georgie. While many believed him to be dead, Alfie is convinced his father is alive. He unexpectedly sees his father's name on a sheaf of papers belonging to a military doctor and learns that he is suffering from shell shock in a hospital in Ipswich, which is nearby. How it unfolds is what Stay Where You Are And Then Leave by John Boyne is all about.
The author paints a stark picture of the devastation and pain war inflicted on mankind. It is poignant, earnest and mesmerizing. The character of Alfie is simply amazing. John Boyne has crafted a truly absorbing story which revolves around a young and courageous boy. This heartfelt story is peopled by memorable characters you’ll not easily forget. It is a book not to be missed.
I don’t want to say too much about the contents because I don’t want to spoil them for you, but I do want to say enough to convince you that this is a book you should track down and read—and soon!
Alfie Summerfield is five when his father volunteers for the British Army at the start of World War I. He’s an interesting, quirky kid, with a child’s sense of time: “Georgie and Margie [Alfie's parents] had been very old when they got married—he [Alfie] knew that much. His dad had been almost twenty-one and his mum was only a year younger.”
At first, Alfie’s father writes regularly, but then the letters stop coming. Alfie’s mum tells Alfie his dad is on a secret mission, but Alfie grow less and less sure of her honesty as his father’s absence grows more extended. Is his father dead? If he’s on a secret mission, what sort of mission is it?
Alfie and his mum quickly become “perilously close to penury,” as she puts it. She works double shifts at a hospital, waking him before she leaves for work in the morning. Sitting alone eating his breakfast each day, Alfie props the newspaper up in font of him as he remembers his dad doing, but he’s only interested in one kind of news:
[H]e did what he always did in the morning. He turned to page four to read the numbers. The numbers of deaths on our side. The number of deaths on their side. The number of wounded. But there was only one number Alfie really cared about: 14278. His dad’s number. The number they’d assigned him when he signed up.
Now the man of the family, Alfie (who ages from five to nine years old over the course of the novel) cuts school and spends four days a week at King’s Cross Station shining shoes in order to make a few pennies to slip into his mother’s purse. But he never cuts school on Monday or Thursday—those are History day and Reading day, his two favorite subjects.
Alfie’s losses extend beyond his missing father and less-present mum: his best friend Kalena and her father are deported to the Isle of Man as enemy aliens because they come from Prague; Alfie’s father’s best friend Joe is first jailed, then regularly assaulted once he returns home, for being a Conshie, a Conscientious Objector; lots of young men leave the neighborhood, never to return. Alfie understand what is meant when a friendly passenger on a train comments on his age: “you’ll be ten soon enough, I imagine. Nine-year-old boys usually turn ten at some point. It’s the nineteen-year-olds who have difficulty turning twenty.”
The writing in Stay Where You Are is deceptively simple, communicating complexities in ways that will be clear to younger readers and intellectually satisfying to older ones. This isn’t a book that ends “happily ever after,” but it doesn’t rob readers of all sense of hope. People fail one another, but they do their best. They have courage to change as they see their own actions in different lights. “Less bad” is better than “more bad,” even if it isn’t “good.”
This book is being released in the U.S. on March 25 (it’s also been published in the UK). Look for a copy, read it, pass it on to a younger (or older) friend. You’ll have much to talk about as you share Alfie’s attempts to understand—and to affect—the adult world that he sees around him.
John Boyne has written 8 adult novels also in addition to his children's books. I am looking forward to reading some of those as well!
Alfie's life has been turned upside down by England's entry into World War I and by his father's volunteering for military service. Alfie clearly remembers the day the war began - that of his fifth birthday - and its effect on his party, the disappointing turnout. Each night he tries to remember life before July 28, 1914 - "... if he remembered them the way they used to be ... there was always the chance ... they could be that way again ... "
Now nine and the "man of the house", Alfie must cope with his father's absence and accept his mother's assertion that father is on a "secret mission". Alfie must also deal with thoughts that his father may be dead and that his mother is not telling the truth. Nevertheless, Alfie eventually uncovers the real reason for his father's letters stopping and for his prolonged absence.
John Boyne has created characters that are real and easy to like. Alfie is a resourceful, responsible boy; his overwhelming love for and belief in his father is touching. Georgie Summerfield, Alfie's father, is an optimistic man who becomes disillusioned when the reality of combat sets in. At one point he writes ... "What else can we do but believe?" ... referencing politicians' assertions that the war will be over by Christmas. Later he writes ..."They just didn't say which Christmas." Alfie's mother Margie has the difficult role of becoming the family breadwinner while living with the fear of impending poverty and of the potential that Georgie may not return from the front or, if he does, he may not ever be the man she remembers.
"Stay Where You Are and Then Leave" is written in clean, easy to understand prose. Targeted at the young adult audience, this novel should be read by anyone interested in history. It lends itself to discussion; book clubs may find it an excellent choice. `Tweens and `teens who are mature enough to understand the impact of war and the power of love will also find this an engaging book. However, "Stay Where You Are and Then Leave" is not a book for immature or overly sensitive individuals who may not appreciate the nuances of thought or the perspective of different characters.