The War I Finally Won

Written by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Review by Kristen Hannum

The War I Finally Won reads like a childhood classic. I suspect it’s destined to become just that for today’s young readers (9- to 12-year-olds) who will fondly remember it when they’re adults.

It’s the second book in the story of Ada and Jamie Smith, evacuees from London during World War II, and their relationship with their guardian, Susan Smith, and the iron-willed Lady Thorton as well as others in their new lives in the country, away from their mother and London. The mother had been abusive, especially to Ada, the older of the two children, who had been born with a clubfoot—intolerable to the mother. One of the joys of the book is watching Ada and Jamie discover love and a world of learning, respect and complexity that they’d been denied in their impoverished former existence. Meanwhile, the war grinds on, threatening everyone.

I often think I’ll read another book by an author who pleases me. With all the books in the world, though, I often don’t follow through. After finishing this book, however, I had my hands on its predecessor, The War That Saved My Life, within hours. It was deservedly named a Newbery Honor Book, won the Schneider Family Book Award (Middle School), and was on a dozen “best books” lists. The author is a skillful storyteller, a wordsmith whose writing plunges readers not only into an era long passed away, but also into the heart of a girl fighting her way towards love.

I’m buying copies of both books for my niece and am recommending the books to anyone, adult or child, who enjoys a solid, heart-warming story.