Twelve-year-old Petra has grown up in a lighthouse on the Kent coast, a world of storms, secret tunnels and stories about sea monsters. But as the Second World War looms, her beloved cliff tops become a terrifying battleground, the threat of invasion horribly close across the water. Her family-lighthouse keeper Pa, her German mother and fiery, unpredictable sister Magda-is torn apart. At the core of the narrative is small, afraid and unnoticed Petra, who feels inextricably linked to a strange, ancient legend.
Lucy Strange has tapped into a growing market for family adventure stories in historical settings for 8 to 12-year-olds. It’s a sub-genre established so elegantly by Kate Saunders (Five Children on the Western Front) and Carroll. Strange is a welcome addition: she sets up her story powerfully, draws her characters well and is good on sister dynamics. She ends with a twist and gives us a real sense of how war and other people’s suspicions can be contagious and fracture the strongest family unit.