Review: Pax by Sara Pennypacker

Story about a boy and his fox, with a serious look at war and its costs.

Publication date: 25th February 2016
Publisher: HarperCollins

Pax is a truly inspiring book, focusing on loss both personal and universal. It is especially topical at the moment when victims of war are in the news, presented through so many different lenses. The novel carefully avoids commenting on the positives and negatives of war, but highlights its implications.

Although arguably not much ‘happens’ in the book, I’m having a hard time reviewing it without feeling like I would be spoiling it for future readers with everything I reveal. Everything about this book was so well-written and intriguing, that I can only urge you to pick it up for yourselves.

I really enjoyed Pennypacker’s writing. Looking through the eyes of the fox was written eloquently; as far from a gimmick as possible. Her interest in the animal – as noted in the epilogue – is evident. The characters are beautifully constructed, and Pax’s is a fascinating portrayal, which avoids anthropomorphism whilst simultaneously exploring his personality.

I recommend Pax unconditionally. It’s wonderfully written and a captivating story for all ages. This is a masterful novel from Pennypacker, which touches on identity, regret and family. I look forward to reading her next book.

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Review: The Search for the Homestead Treasure by Ann Treacy

Excellent historical fiction about a little-known Minnesota community.

Publication date: 19th May 2016
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press

The Search for the Homestead Treasure spans two generations of Swedish immigrants to the US. Combining the carefully researched history of this community with that of the Romani Gypsies in the area – all under the auspices of a mystery story, the novel is ambitious and it pays off.

Treacy is evidently psychologically astute, tuned in to the actions and fears of a young girl from centuries ago. The extensive explanatory epilogue is a perfect conclusion to the book, as the reader is able to delve deeper into the reality of the characters. Treacy admits to autobiographical elements – which arguably give the work its distinct air of authenticity – as well as the extent of her poetic licence.

The Gunnarsson family are also sensitively presented, as they deal with the grief of losing a son and brother. The theme which underpins the reader’s growing relationship with the protagonist, Martin, is subtly expounded and fascinating to follow. It blends beautifully with the discoveries he makes about the family’s past, and its intertwined destiny with the eponymous Homestead.

I recommend this novel as a first foray into historical fiction. Especially interesting as a glimpse into rural life in the early 20th century, as well as as a mystery. The social issues raised by the depiction of family are also worth taking into consideration.