The Shadow of War by Jack Murray is the first of three books following two boys/soldiers from their homes and families North Africa and the battle of El Alamein.
In 1933, Danny Shaw was a schoolboy in a rural English village and Manfred Brehme was growing up in a city in Germany. Manfred enjoyed school, Danny didn’t. Danny’s father fought in the Great War, Manfred’s didn’t. Danny skips school to steal apples and enjoy the countryside with his two friends. Manfred is uneasy at school when his Jewish teacher is taken away, but the lure of the Hitler Youth is strong. Danny leaves school to help in his father’s blacksmith workshop while Manfred leaves school to sign into the German Army. When war is declared both Danny Manfred undergo basic training after which both are shipped off to North Africa – which is where this first book in the trilogy ends.
Each boy’s/soldier’s are told with clarity, humour, emotion, and a strong sense of ‘war is coming’ and that both will be involved. It’s interesting for the reader to read in such detail two soldier’s preparations for war.
The Shadow of War is well-written with careful attention to detail giving the book a strong feel of reality. The story is balanced between Manfred and Danny and their characters are well-developed through the whole book. We’re given a keen sense of their characters by following their child and teenage years, who they have strongest relationships with, their fears and weaknesses as well as their strengths. It’s reasonably clear that the later books will bring these two together in some way and I’m eager to know how that will look.