Uncivil War: Twin Tales from Nottinghamshire
This is a children’s / Young Adult historical novel set during the English Civil war between the raising of the King’s Standard in 1642 at Nottingham, and the surrender of King Charles to the Scots in 1646. It is mostly focused around events in Nottingham city and castle, and Newark. Actually it is two stories in one, involving linked characters, locations and families, and a group of children. Although it is a fiction it is based upon real characters and a diary of a lady who witnessed these events.
Five children are caught up in the conflict; Tom, a stable boy and his sister Meg. Nick, who did not want to become a soldier and Jed who did, but regretted it; and Alice, who helps run a refuge for war victims. The story takes the children through the emotions of war, from initial excitement at the romantic perspective, to questioning the realities. With skill and integrity it look at the Civil War from a fresh perspective – that of children. It is well edited and cleanly presented, and the pencil-drawn sketches dropped in here and there are a nice addition. My main criticism is that the stories could have been expanded more. Indeed sometimes I was surprised to realise that two years had passed with little comment – there could easily have been a most enjoyable series of several novels, or perhaps a trilogy here!
Conversely, because the book is a fast read. and does not get bogged down into too much detail, yet gives the reader a good feel for life during this era, especially for children, Uncivil War could very well find a niche role in education as an extremely useful book for schools covering the 17th century in general, and the war in particular. It raises several issues for discussion and further exploration, not least of which is how did children cope during the time of conflict?