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Postcards from No Man's Land (Carnegie Medal Winner) Hardcover – May 27, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sophisticated teenage readers yearning for a wider view of life may find themselves intoxicated by this Carnegie Medal¤winning novel from Chambers (The Toll Bridge; Dance on My Grave), recent recipient of the Hans Christian Andersen Author Award. Jam-packed with ideas and filled with passionate characters, the story is made up of two narratives, one set in the mid-1990s and the other in 1944. The inevitable but surprising ways in which these two tales connect form the novel¡s backbone. Bookish, intense and self-conscious, Jacob Todd, 17, has left his English home to spend a few days in the Netherlands paying homage to the soldier grandfather he never knew, and visiting Geertrui, the Dutch woman who took care of his grandfather after he was wounded in battle. Shortly after meeting a beguiling stranger, a mugging leaves Jacob stranded in Amsterdam, forcing him into the initially awkward role of houseguest to Geertrui¡s forceful and freethinking grandson, Daan. The second story, set in occupied Holland at the time of the battle to liberate Oosterbeck, and narrated by Geertrui, chronicles her long-ago relationship with Jacob¡s grandfather. As each narrative unwinds, parallels and differences between the two eras emerge. Along with literature, art and love, topics dealt with here include euthanasia, adultery and bisexuality. These issues never become problems to be solved; rather, they are part of the story's texture, neither more nor less significant than the precarious joy of investigating a new city and a foreign culture. No tidy endings here - the concluding scenes present Jacob with a complicated moral dilemma that remains unresolved. The implied challenges of the future make the final pages all the more satisfying: it's clear that Jacob can not only cope with ambiguity but can employ it to enlarge himself on the voyage of self-discovery he has so auspiciously begun. Ages 14-up.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 10-Up This book received international acclaim after its 1999 publication in Europe. Older teens on this side of the Atlantic now have a chance to read the two complex and challenging narratives intertwined in this beautifully written novel. When 17-year-old Jacob travels solo from England as his grandmother's representative at a ceremony in the Netherlands commemorating the World War II Battle of Arnhem, he is transformed. Jacob is intrigued and excited by new ideas engendered by initially bewildering experiences: the strangely disturbing Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, new acquaintances who cross gender lines, and, most of all, the imminent assisted death of the elderly lady who was his grandfather's wartime nurse and has kept in contact with his family. This frail Dutchwoman, the second narrator, has her own startling tale to tell, recalling in detail her short but passionate relationship with another Jacob long ago, when the whole world seemed to be burning and when serious, irrevocable choices were made in haste. The protagonists in these coming-of-age stories face real-world decisions involving love, sexuality, and friendship, linking the teenagers across time and generations, and leading to a conclusion as convincing as it is absorbing and thought-provoking. -Starr E. Smith, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (May 27, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525468633
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525468639
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,554,379 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

They are euthanasy and mainly love.
Overall, the story is nearly flawless, with only a few phrases here and there that make me cringe because they seem so unnatural.
I am currently a senior in high school and was recommended this book by my English AP teacher.
P. Dobias

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By "darastar" on January 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book is very different. There are two main characters, one a 17 year old English boy in the 90's and a Dutch family friend who is dying in his time, but knew his grandfather during WWII. The book is set in Amsterdam, so it incorporates a lot of Dutch, which is frustrating at first, but then it becomes second nature to find the translation of the phrase, or to remember it from earlier, and this adds to the sense of place.
There are a lot of adult themes covered in this book, so it's best if you have a mature teenager reading it, and are prepared to discuss it afterwards. Some of those topics include: homosexuality, bisexuality, euthanasia, war, and marital fidelity.
This book is well written, so chances are that you won't get lost, and the different writing styles make it difficult to get bored. As soon as something gets exciting in one part of the story, it switches off, making you want more.
Belongs on the bookshelf of the mature adolescent, and the discerning adult reader of adolescent fiction.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Andrea Wong on August 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Winner of the Carnegie Medal--one of the United Kingdom's most prestigious literary prizes--Postcards from No Man's Land is a powerful tale of past and present, told through dual narratives. When 17-year-old Jacob Todd arrives in Holland to attend a ceremony commemorating the World War II Battle of Arnhem and to pay his respects to his dead grandfather, little does he know that his journey will bring him new ideas about love, life, death, and art; friendships with young people who cross gender lines; discoveries of his own identity and sexuality; and a shocking truth kept secret for 50 years and revealed in a diary written specifically for him by Geertrui Van Riet, the now ailing woman who had taken care of his grandfather during the war and, unbeknownst to her family and his, shared with him a passionate but short-lived love affair. Philosophical, comic, painful, emotional, heart-warming, and sensual, the novel is written with exquisite detail--perhaps a little too much detail at times--and a sophistication rarely seen in American novels for teens. The setting of Amsterdam, a city both modern and old, is a perfect reflection of the parallel narratives. The characters are likable and admirable yet realistic, and demonstrate strength and open-mindedness as they attempt to work through personal conflicts and difficulties, many of which are never resolved--an aspect of the novel which may dissatisfy some readers. Not to be regarded as just a work of historical fiction, the novel's treatments of the universal young adult themes of first love, independence, and friendship demonstrate careful thought and originality. Already translated into eleven languages, the novel will surely maintain its resonance among generations of readers to come.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By "richardfusato" on January 1, 2004
Format: Paperback
I'm a teen and I think this book is really beautiful. The first word that comes to mind as I write this review is "sincere". Because it talks with you directly, it goes at once to the centre of the subjects It describes. It doesn't get lost in narrative embroidery and set-ups. As you read you can hear the characters talking and watch the narration with your eyes.
About the narration, it's really beautifully built: In a chapter we are told the adventures of Jacob Todd, teenager, through the city of Amsterdam, and in the following we get to know about Jacob Todd, his homonymous grandfather and the events he was involved in in the Netherlands as soldier during the II World War, then back to the young grandchild, and then again with the soldier: A continuous change of scene that more and more induces you to keep reading and to find out the link between the two characters.
I think the power of the book is due to the frankness and realism it uses to describe the story and to approach the very important thematics in it.
They are euthanasy and mainly love. Love is the centre of the book I think, and by love the book means a lot of things: the love between a grandmother and a grandchild, the love beetween a grandchild and his dead grandfather, the love between a girl and a boy. The book deals with this one with no emphasizing, just with a sentiment of naturalness and frank discovery I have seen nowhere else.
I was somehow shocked by this thought-provoking book, and I definitely suggest it to all the people (teens and adults) who are interested in a mature reading.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Karen L. Simonetti on April 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The story is all encompassing with enough of "literary gaps" to draw the young adult reader in: heart, body and soul. The above reviews have told enough of POSTCARDS' plot (too much really), so instead I invite you to partake in a reading experience of a lifetime. The dual storylines, multi-faceted character and no-easy-answers themes pulsate throughout the novel. POSTCARDS lives up to the author's own mission statement. "I will not compromise on language or content. At 15 people can handle the same language as me, they're just as complicated as me, and are very interested in thinking about important questions for the first time." (Aidan Chambers as quoted in Moira Dunkin's report online at:...)
Weaving the threads of Anne Frank's and James Joyce's writing into his own tapestry of an exquisite masterpiece, the LA Youth Writer's Group magnificently sums Chambers' feat of writing up:
The judges, from the LA Youth Libraries Group, were unanimous in their choice: "It is a rites of passage book that supports young people in dealing with life's emotional geography. The writer trusts young readers to make up their own minds about life's big issues. This is an outstanding novel which lingers in the mind; every word is well chosen." (see: above Library Association Record website cited above)
The only "no man's land" that exists is the land that doesn't bring POSTCARDS to the teen reader. Kudos to Aidan Chambers! Kudos!
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