Private Peaceful

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Private Peaceful... Innocence, love, courage and cowardice.

Michael Morpurgo is most famous for his children’s literature, such as The Butterfly Lion or War Horse, so it might seem odd that what is considered a children’s book should appear on a newspaper for students, but the truth is that this book is moving.

The story is written from the point of view Thomas “Tommo” Peaceful, a young man born around the turn of the 20th century who is, for reasons unknown until the end, reliving his whole life in one night, with each chapter beginning with a different time reference and a short passage from the present before indulging us within the past. He tells the reader about his life as a child in a small English village: his school life, his family, the death of his father and the goings on up at the big house, but mainly he speaks of his admirable older brother, Charlie, and his love for his friend Molly and their growth into adulthood together. When war breaks out in Europe Charlie refuses to go and fight until he is threatened with the eviction of his family from their house, and is forced to sign up. Thomas, despite only being fifteen, signs up as well, rejecting the idea of letting his brother go and fight on his own. And so they go off to war, and the story tells of the horror of life along the front line in Belgium, of the bad guys on our side, and the good guys on theirs, from the point of view of an innocent country boy, with constant interjections form the present that build up, leaving the reading in suspense about what the dreaded morning will bring for Private Peaceful, with a climatic and beautiful finish.

At its roots, Private Charlie Peaceful is an angry response towards the capital punishment of the soldiers on the front line during the First World War, however somewhere along the line Morpurgo managed to conjure up a beautiful story of brotherly love during a dark period of our history. The narrative style he adopts is touching and powerful...
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