Title: Paradise Barn
Author: Victor Watson
Publication Date: 1 Sep 2009
Synopsis from Goodreads
September 1940. War rages across Europe, and thousands of people, men, women and children, have lost their lives.
Despite the air fights overhead life in the quiet village of Great Deeping in the Fens goes on much as usual, until an unthinkable event: a murder. Molly, Annie and Adam, an evacuee from London, are determined to solve the mystery of the Paradise Barn. But it’s one thing hunting for clues, another to track down a murderer. With the war bringing so many strangers to the village, who can they really trust?
As a fan of World War Two novels, especially those that deal with the home front, I really recommend this novel, mainly to children. The reason I say this is because despite it being a great story, I pretty much worked out the ending within a few pages which was slightly disappointing but figure that this may not have been the case 12 or so years ago.
It’s a really well put together story and the characters are really well developed. The three children have powerful imaginations which combined with boredom, abject fear and natural playfulness leads them to be involved in this hunt for a murderer.
The inclusion of the murder mystery within the larger picture of the war in general is an extremely clever move and I think Watson is able to show us exactly how every death is as significant as the last. It’s hard to see how one individual death can be considered significant in a world where people are dying every five minutes but Watson shows exactly what this murder does to Molly and Abigail’s village and how it affects their lives.
The range of characters we meet is quite diverse considering the location of the novel in such a small village but it definitely shows how war can mix and match the way society normally runs from mothers doing “men’s work” (opening and closing the railway lines) to women working in the air force. Some of the characters really opened my eyes.
In whole, this book is an extremely entertaining and worthwhile read. Aimed at younger readers (maybe around 11/12) in my opinion it’s a great novel for understanding the impact of war covering issues from evacuation to grief to gender.