A heartrending coming-of-age novel set in a war-torn Europe.
Ilse is only 12 years old when she begins to lose things. Her home. Her language. Her mother. Her name. Sent away from Nazi Germany, she flees first to Morocco and then to Paris, where she must keep her ailing father in hiding.
As German troops tighten around the city, a harrowing escape to Marseilles puts her in the path of her guardian angel, a man in whom darkness and light are mingled in equal proportion. As the war drags on and Ilse leaves childhood behind, he draws her into the dangerous work of resisting the occupying force, and her heart is engaged in ways she can barely begin to understand.
Nicolai is the seven-year-old son of a Luftwaffe officer and his frivolous wife; the one light in his little world is his governess, a woman whom, he learns, has had to send her own child away for fear of her life. The precocious Nicolai, a budding spy, teases out everything he can learn about this mystery daughter. But as the balance of Germany's war tips towards defeat, he must focus on the hardships closer to home - relocating the coloured pins on his treasured battle maps as the bombers scream overhead.
Through the eyes of Ilse and Nicolai, the eternal yearning of the refugee comes to life as never before. Based on real events experienced by the author's family, 'The Children's War' is a masterly and suspenseful novel that evokes Pat Barker and Michael Ondaatje; it is almost unbearably moving in its depiction of the fragile love that springs up between those who have nothing else to give.