Across The Divide

Written by Anne Booth
Review by Jane Burke

This is a brave and clever book which addresses important issues in a timely manner.

Olivia is experiencing problems with school, with a boy, and most significantly, with her pacifist Mum whose politics threaten to split her already fragmented family. Being sent to stay with her estranged father on the island of Lindisfarne only makes things worse. Strange events take place on the Holy Island: the weather changes as she steps out the door, people ignore her to her face, and the place is full of film extras in old-fashioned clothes. But Olivia finds a bond with a new friend, William, and begins to understand her mother more, and even gets along better with her father.

The book is written in plain language and largely in dialogue, and is funny and thought-provoking in turns. There are adept plot twists, and an optimistic conclusion. The author uses few literary turns of phrase, but the peace and bird-life of the island are well-depicted, ‘birds squabbling excitedly in the hedges’, and certain images, such as a white feather, are skilfully deployed.

Rooted in the politics and concerns of today, with the issues of war and terrorism and how we live with and yet combat violence, it also deals sensitively with the past, and the relevance of history to our lives today. This sharp and well-paced novel explores questions many adolescents must ask themselves. How do we negotiate and reach compromise? How do we live happily with those we disagree with?  It deals with serious issues in an accessible way, and I would recommend this book for children and young adults of 10 – 14 years old.