Saturday, February 13, 2010

Book Review: Tamar


Mal Peet's novel Tamar: A Novel of Espionage, Passion, and Betrayal is a bit like a more realistic version of the movie Intolerable Basterds with a bit of Richard Russo's Empire Falls. Kind of a weird combination, but I promise you that this is a stunning piece of fiction. It reads like a movie and is gripping in its back and forth between the 1940's and the 1990's.

Tamar is the name of a river in England, but in this story it is also the undercover name of a resistance fighter who's working undercover in the Netherlands during the Nazi occupation of the 1940's. Tamar the man is handsome, smart, and a great spy. He is stationed in a small farming village and is living with a woman named Marikje, who becomes his lover and confidant. Their love is kept secret, which is an effort to keep them safe from attention.

Fast forward fifty years to the story of a fifteen year-old girl named Tamar. Her beloved grandfather insisted on this strange name before she was born. After he commits suicide, he leaves a box with money, maps, old photographs, and some mysterious clues. Apparently, his last wish to her is that she embark upon a journey. Tamar does so, with the help of her cousin Yoyo. What she finds illuminates a dark period in her grandfather's past and helps connect her to her father.

This is a captivating read. It is lengthy, but well-crafted. The characters feel real and fresh--not cookie-cut out of history books. If you have an interest in WWII, this book may be right for you!

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