Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tamar by Mal Peet

published by Candlewick in 2007

To make up for my negligence, I thought I might as well share a few thoughts about Tamar. The premise is very promising. (what more do you expect from a book with "A Novel of Espionage, Passion, and Betrayal" as it's tagline?) Two narratives are spliced together as the reader jumps from the "Hunger Winter" of 1944 to the tale of two teenagers on a road trip/scavenger hunt in 1995. One of those teenagers happens to be the granddaughter of a Allied spy who's forages in the Dutch resistance of WWII we have the distinct pleasure of reading for half the book.

That said, while an interesting and refreshing take on the de-glamorized, not-so-Hollywood-but-realistic life of a spy, the spy bits of the story are told in an omniscient third-person's voice, flittering its focus from character to character, depending on where the action is happening. The 90s teenage bits are in the first person. The transition between voices is jarring at best.

Additionally, the WWII half is riddled with minor and moderately-major characters, making it difficult to really get to know or love anyone let alone the hero of the story. On the flip side, the teenage road trip half is dominated by first-person thoughts and relfections on her life and past experiences. Where there is interaction with other characters, it is generally with one other person, and this teeange relationship is not nearly exploited as much as the relationships are in the WWII sections. The unbalance between the two storylines made wonder, "What is the purpose of even having this second narrative? The war story would have been fine all on it's own!"

Well, the surprise ending answers the question. Is it fair to the reader to write from multiple perspectives for 400 pages for the sake of a plot twist? I didn't think so. Younger readers, on the other hand, would probably eat Tamar up.

3/5 Stars
Grades 7+

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