“He was not what you’d call a lovable man, my grandad. It wasn’t that he was cold, exactly. It was more as though he had a huge distance inside himself. There’s a game I used to play with my friends. One of us had to think of someone we all knew, and the others had to work out who it was by asking questions like “If this person was a musical instrument, what would it be?” I used to think that if Grandad were a place, it would be one of those great empty landscapes you sometimes see in American movies: flat, an endless road, tumbleweed blown by a moaning wind, a vast blank sky. And after Dad disappeared, he withdrew even further into this remote space.”
Tamar is the name of a winding river in England, between Devon and Cornwall. It is also the code name of a resistance fighter in Nazi-occupied Holland during the Second World War. It is also the name given to this resistance fighter’s granddaughter. When her grandfather commits suicide, several years after the disappearance of her father, he leaves behind a box of clues for Tamar, a box that takes her on an adventure of discovery, where she learns the answers to questions she hadn’t even known to ask.
British Author Mal Peet takes you back and forth in time in this novel, between Tamar’s search for clues to her grandfather’s suicide, and his adventures 50 years earlier as a resistance fighter in the Netherlands. Tamar the resistance fighter is a Dutch man, trained in England, sent to Holland to unite the many factions of rebels fighting the Nazis. Dart is the code name of his colleague, the wireless operator posing as a doctor in a local insane asylum, popping amphetamines to stay awake for transmissions back and forth to England. Marijke is the woman whose farm is the base for Tamar’s missions, and both men are deeply in love with her. She is also the modern day Tamar’s grandmother.
Tamar, A Novel of Espionage, Passion, and Betrayal, is a Carnegie Medal winning novel that will appeal to adults and young adults who enjoy stories of espionage, war, and historical fiction. It was a very well written book, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m not generally much of an espionage fan (I always fear I’ll forget some vital clue), nor am I a fan of war stories. But this story was told in such a way as to keep me interested, as Tamar discovered hidden realities about her grandfather and his past, and about herself as well.
I read Tamar for the Book Awards Reading Challenge.