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Mal Peet
Oct 2005
I've just done that thing you do when you turn the last page on an exceptionally good book. Close the back cover, stare gormlessly at the jacket illustration and make a cross between a sniff and a sigh. The sniff for appreciation of great work done, the sigh of regret that a story you've savoured has finished.

Mal Peet's first novel, Keeper, was a miracle. A novel that finally revealed to me - a cricket lover - the poetry and magic in the game of soccer. Second novels are often disappointments, and when the author himself told me (at a summer party) that he was working on a novel set in Holland during the war, I confess I felt disappointment was on the cards.

How wrong. This is an outstanding novel. Outstanding in every regard. It establishes Peet as a novelist of immense gift and versatility, for no two novels could be more different than Keeper and Tamar and yet be so equally brilliant.

The two principal characters in Tamar are undercover operators working in Nazi-occupied Holland in support of the resistance. There is many an episode of nailbiting excitement in the book, but for much of the time the undercover agents have to cope with the boredom of waiting and watching, and with the interpersonal tension of loving the same woman.

Parallel to this is a more contemporary narrative, set in 1995, which is properly subservient to the war story, and yet utterly convincing.

Throughout the book the writing is of the highest order, crisply figurative description falling from Peet's pen with apparent ease: "the mud had solidified into frost-capped peaks and ripples that looked like mountain ranges seen from the cockpit of an aircraft" or "the sky was the colour on old knife" to give just two examples.

Published by Walker Books as a Young Adult novel, Tamar is a novel worthy of standing with the very best of contemporary British fiction.

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This page contains a single entry by achuka published on November 8, 2005 11:40 PM.

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