When I read the description for We’ve Come to Take You Home, I knew this was a book I wanted to read and I’m so grateful to Susan Gandar for sending me a copy in return for my review. After a brief but disturbing prologue the book opens in a familiar setting with a group of teenage girls meeting boys at a funfair, however, that rapidly changes when one of the girls, Sam experiences what can perhaps be best described as a time slip, and finds herself on a platform of a station in the past. These episodes occur throughout the book and Sam is much more than an observer as she sees what is happening through the eyes of the person involved. She is understandably confused and at this point so are we, this is a book that very gradually reveals the truth. After being introduced to Sam, the third person narrative switches to Jess, another teenage girl but one who is actually living in 1914. War has not long broken out and young men are being recruited to fight in a war they are told will be over by Christmas. With our benefit of hindsight of course we know that many of the men eagerly signing up are destined to never return or to come back irrevocably changed.
The chapters throughout the book switch between the two girls, separated by a century but somehow linked. Jess’ story is so evocatively told, it’s a poignant and bittersweet coming of age story and also a sharp reminder of the social inequalities that were still rife during that time. Her family are desperately poor and cruelly affected by the war. The village they live in is terribly poverty stricken, something we perhaps forget when we look back on that time.
Sam’s story doesn’t have the same desperate tragedy but is still an immersive look at a modern family who are experiencing their own trauma. Whilst the chapters featuring Jess are perhaps the more obviously heartrending, Sam’s life is touchingly and empathetically followed. She may not experience the same dangers as Jess but she is still affected by dramatic and life-changing events that she needs to come to turns with. Both girls are forced to make brave decisions and in many ways we are reminded that no matter the circumstances love, fear, hope and grief affect us all. Dying is a constant theme throughout too, the horrors of war obviously but also more subtly, the quiet losses, the need to face up to and accept death. Ultimately it’s a book about family, the ties that bind us and link us to the past.
I was so moved by this book, the mystery at the heart of it is beautifully and intricately explained. I really appreciated too that the reason for the bond between the two girls is something special, without giving anything away this book celebrates being different and accepting those differences. The characters are subtly and sympathetically brought to life, the switching narrative never less than compelling. I read it in a single setting as I was unable to tear myself away from this intelligent, thoughtful and cleverly plotted book. I knew it would be a book I would enjoy, I didn’t realise it would be a novel that would touch me so deeply. I thoroughly recommend it.