Feather Wars

Feather Wars is set in the early years of World War II. It is unusual in that its setting is rural England where the war seems remote and offers little opportunity for the usual blitz and bomb shelters scenes. The writer skilfully intertwines the story of the war in France and a different sort of war. Sam is bullied because of his father’s obsession with pigeons and is driven to more and more desperate strategies to avoid school and contact with his enemies. It is a rite-of-passage novel in which Sam learns to respect and even love his pigeon-fancier father. The historical detail is used to great effect: shortages, blackouts, ARP wardens, radio and the Dunkirk evacuation. Central to Sam’s development is the relationship he develops with Polly, a streetwise city evacuee with her own burdens. A well-written story, much of it is told as the internal thoughts of Sam as he struggles with his own fears and deceptions. The depiction of bullying is good: insidious rather than direct, psychological rather than physical. The characterisation is also very good and Sam is real enough for the reader to think him unfair and perhaps even a little paranoid, but still sympathise. A well-written realistic novel, good description and excellent dialogue, for readers of 12–16 and older.