Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I AM DAVID by Anne Holm

'I am David', David repeatedly explains. If he seems slightly obsessed with his own name, it can be excused since it is all he really has. For as long as he can remember, David has grown up in a Eastern European concentration camp. He has no knowledge of the outside world. However, all that is set to change when a camp guard helps him to escape and encourages him to head north, towards unknown freedom.

Although I found the novel hard to get into at first, I started to warm to David's character. He is fiercely independent and very mature for his age. His wonder and naivety at the world is refreshing to read. Witnessing him experience his first smile is genuinely touching, and his character had more than enough quirks to keep me reading.

Anne Holm's prose is simple but effective, although I sense its effect has been somewhat dampened by translation into English. The geographical and political context seems to be intentionally vague, perhaps to both reflect David's own confusion, and to allow the reader better access to the narrative. This didn't bother me, but could annoy some readers, especially inquisitive children.

This is a novel probably best marketed at young girls, and adults, since younger boys would probably find some of the more emotional aspects of the book slightly sickening! For me however, the relationships which David strikes up throughout the book with both adults and children rang true. It is a book which certainly makes you appreciate what you have. The plot runs slowly at times, but builds momentum, to the extent that the final passages seem a little rushed.

All in all it is a thought provoking, orgininal novel which focuses upon a little talked about time and place.


Kit Kat said...

The last Eastern European WWII story that I read was Jerzy Kosinsky's The Painted Bird. It has since kept me away from tragic war stories because of how disturbing it was. I can't imagine the things that so many children had to go through just to make it through that war (any war really). Is this book a little on the lighter side?? By that I mean does it get very in depth to the horrific events happening at that time?

sideline jelly said...

I've not read The Painted Bird, but all of the events of 'I am David' are set after the war, so it focuses mostly on his journey and inner trauma rather than horrific events.
The camp he is imprisoned within is implied to be communist controled, as after WWII the Soviets took control of Bulgaria.

Most of the people David meets help him on his way, so it's a hopeful book. It's also aimed at children so there's barely any violence.

Have you read the Silver Sword? Has to be my all time favourite wartime children's story.

p.s just googled Painted Bird-think I can understand why you were put off!!