I have to admit to being a massively impatient reader. By this I mean, if I love an author and their book isn’t released for a long time or if for whatever reason it gets delayed I feel hugely disappointed. But last week the opposite happened and it filled my heart with joy! If you have read my reviews of ‘In Darkling Wood’ and ‘Strange Star’ you will know that Emma Carroll is one of my most favourite writers. So you can imagine my delight when I discovered her latest book ‘Letters From the Lighthouse’ had been chosen as Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month for May, meaning I was going to get my hands on a copy a month early. I even managed to get my hands on a slightly earlier copy after spotting it behind the tills in Waterstones and begging the bookseller to let me have a copy. I then locked myself in a room and devoured ‘Letters From the Lighthouse’ in one sitting and without doubt I can confirm that it is now my favourite book by Emma Carroll, in fact I would go as far to say that it is my favourite book I have read this year!
It’s February 1941, the middle of World War 2 when London was being subjected to numerous bombs being dropped by the Germans. Olive is at the pictures with her brother Cliff and her older sister Sukie, who then mysteriously disappears and they find themselves all alone when an air raid is announced. Making sure her brother is safe in an air raid shelter she desperately tries to find her sister only to catch sight of her talking to a stranger just as a bomb lands nearby. When Olive wakes up after the blast, Sukie is missing and she finds a peculiar coded note in the pocket of her Mother’s coat, the only clue to Sukie’s disappearance which seems to link her to Devon. With London unsafe, Olive and her brother are evacuated to Devon to live with a mysterious lighthouse keeper and Olive begins to suspect that her sister may be caught up in something dark and dangerous.
It is difficult to convey how much I loved this book! Having loved all of Emma’s other books I tried to understand why ‘Letters From the Lighthouse’ had such an impact on me and I think the reason has to be that it feels like she has given us a real glimpse of the hardship of war for children at that time. I genuinely cared about the characters of the book, feeling distraught for Olive and Cliff when they were taken away from their mother to a place where nobody really wanted them. It was heart breaking when you realise how the seemingly difficult and unkind Esther had been shaped by the horrors she had experienced first hand when she is only a child. Emma has the ability to touch your soul when she writes, it’s a true privilege stepping into her characters lives and to feel their emotions so deeply. This is a really important book, a must have read for any UKS2 or KS3 child and needs to be in every primary and secondary school. If teachers are studying World War 2 with their classes and want their children to have a real empathy for the experiences of evacuees and refugees then this is a book that they need to share with their class. I finished this book in tears, it is incredibly moving and beautifully written! If you read any book this year then let it be ‘Letters From the Lighthouse’.
You can buy a copy now from Waterstones or pre-order from any good independent bookshop where it will be released on the 1st June.