Saturday, August 17, 2013

Book Review: Mare's War

I picked this one up at the library since I remembered it was a title on my to-read list and I've actually been in the mood lately for something with a more historical bent to it.

Mare's War by Tanita S. Davis

Summary: Octavia and her sister Tali are less than thrilled that they have to spend a large part of their summer vacation with their rather unconventional grandmother Mare. She smokes, drives fast cars, and wears high heels which throughly embarrasses her two granddaughters but she wants to take this summer and tell them her story and how as a young black woman, just a girl really, she joined the women's army in World War II and was even more unconventional than they had thought.

The Good: Mare's story was just as engaging and interesting as I had hoped, I liked how the story covered not only her time in the Women's Army but also her life before and a bit about her time after the war (and it was nice to see that just because the war was over doesn't mean her group was disbanded immediately since you still need to start with the reconstruction after the war). I liked the characters, although at times I wondered if Octavia and Tali were included in this story so that the author could get a little soapbox-y about inequality (it was how the lines were set up just a little too perfectly to lead into those bits) and felt like everything was also well paced. Since Mare isn't one of the key players in World War II this story is more character focused than plot focused and I thought it was really well pulled off.

The Bad: I'm in two minds about Octavia's half of the story, on the one hand I can see how Davis wanted to use this summer as a way to get Octavia (and Tali) to grow but on the other hand it was a bit boring. I think the story could have stood perfectly fine on it's own if it was just about Mare, although obviously then it wouldn't have been able to include the very end of the story in the present day, and I might have preferred it that way. Again, there was nothing wrong with the characters of Octavia and Tali or the plot, setting, pacing, any of that, it was just a bit dull and I don't feel like it was really needed in the end. 

I'm giving this book a 3.5 out of 5 for having an interesting historical story yet a duller half with the present day story. And of course I need to also plug both Flygirl (black girl passes as white to enter the WASP) and Code Name: Verity (British spy recounts to her diary, which is then read to her captors, how she and a friend, also a pilot, ended up working in the British military up to the point of her capture in German-held France). All three of these are great works of historical fiction although Verity is the most likely of the three to make you cry, just a warning about that (and I have no clue what it's sequel, due out this year, is supposed to be about or how that's even going to work).

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