Moral dilemma remains;Children's books

19th February 1999 at 00:00
POSTCARDS FROM NO MAN'S LAND. By Aidan Chambers. Bodley Head pound;10.99.

This multi-layered novel will attract acclaim and controversy, as among the many issues it addresses are euthanasia, adultery, fascism, sexual identity and the questioning of a boy's conformist views.

The page-turning narrative divides between the story of Jacob Todd's visit to Holland for the commemoration of the Battle of Arnhem, in which his grandfather was killed, and the memoirs of an old woman, Geertrui, whose family hid injured British soldiers during the Nazi occupation.

Geertrui is in the last stages of cancer and has chosen to have an assisted death, which is legal in Holland. While staying with her grandson Daan, Jacob comes to discover how close are his ties with the dying woman. The moral dilemma which remains with him when he leaves for England at the end of the book will haunt the reader for a long time.

Despite the apparent differences between the moral issues touched upon, the great theme of this latest novel from an award-winning writer is the right to self-determination. Chambers fills these pages with remarkable Dutch sanity and the ability for clear-eyed self-reflection that also characterise the Diary of Anne Frank and the Rembrandt portraits which Jacob so admires.

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