A World Between Us

Written by Lydia Syson
Review by Geoffrey Harfield

In a story of young loves lost in the Spanish Civil War, Felicity and Nat meet at Mosley’s 1936 Black Shirt march in the London East End. At 20, Felicity, called Felix, is a trainee nurse. From the first sentences of this remarkably good first novel we are in the midst of action as Felix rescues injured Nat from a police horse charge.

Lydia Syson writes a rollicking book of the adventures of love awakened and lost in war. We follow two platonic lovers and George, a London reporter, through character developing events. It’s rare for a book to bring even the suggestion of a tear to an old man’s eye, but the receptions the Catalonians give Nat’s International Brigade does.

Excellent metaphors abound. There is one comparing Felix’s arrival in Spain to a helter-skelter ride. The book cleverly explains not only the Spanish war but deeper politics in a way young persons can understand. It is therefore a very fine, important book for teenagers, even if not Jewish, as Felix and Nat are.

I loved the short sentences as Nat goes into action and Felix copes with crying, crumpled men in a field hospital miles away. Whist gripping in its horror, above all, the book shows the qualities of duty, care and expertise shown by the heroine and medical staff. We learn that Republican soldiers gave blood in the field to colleagues. It’s taken to the wounded not the wounded to the blood. Once Felix has to become a murderer to protect her patients.

This is a fast, teenagers’ war novel detailing the politics and horrors of a field hospital. Gripping, it shows the qualities of duty, care and expertise needed. Superb. Happily there is a satisfactorily conclusion as WW2 starts! And another story begins…