Private Peaceful

I begin my PGCE (teacher training) course in September and as part of my preparation is to read many different children’s books. I have just finished Private Peaceful and it is a truly remarkable, moving read that I had to post a review.

 

Private Peaceful

By Michael Morpurgo.

Pages: 192

Rating: 5/5

Age range: 10yrs +

From Amazon: PP

“Tommo” Peaceful is recalling his childhood from those terrible battlefields. He remembers his big brother Charlie taking him to his first day of school, the death of his father, his mum working hard to keep a roof over their heads and food on their table. He remembers his brother Joe, who some called simple, but who to Tommo was very special. He also recalls the only girl in his life, Molly, and how Charlie somehow took her away from him. But as the World turned to War, he had to grow up fast. Together Charlie and Tommo enlist and are sent to France, almost immediately, to what could only be described as pure hell on Earth. Bullets, bombs, death. Shells, noise, dirt. Disease, rats, stench. Charlie and Tommo fight for their lives and to stay together–facing certain death in the face every time they try to advance the British lines.”

A short synopsis:

Tommo tells his story in account form, from the past to the present day. He recalls his childhood, his family and Molly the girl he met on his first day of school and fell in love with. She later married his older brother Charlie after having a secret relationship with him and becoming pregnant. Soon after Charlie and Molly’s wedding the two Peaceful brothers are sent to Belgium to fight in the Great War. The rest of the story describes the brothers’ experiences during the War. When Tommo gets injured, Charlie disobeys an order from their Sergeant and stays with Tommo. As a result Charlie is accused of cowardice and court martialled.

Morpurgo has set the chapters of the book so that they countdown to Charlie’s execution. It’s very clever and extremely powerful; strong emotions are evoked from the reader as you experience the dreadful moment of Charlie’s impending death getting closer and closer. At dawn Charlie is marched before the firing squad where he dies singing Oranges and Lemons. The story ends in the present tense with Tommo promising to take care of Molly and their young son, Little Tommo.

*

This book shows the devastating mistreatment of soldiers during the War and the unfair endings that many brave soldiers suffered. The friendship between the Peaceful brothers is so beautifully portrayed that you cannot help but come to love them. The unwavering trust between the soldiers in the trenches is heart-wrenching, they suffered such appalling conditions, mistreatment and early death yet they still dreamed of the future and getting home to their families. Many never returned home, so many young men died fighting a seemingly unwinnable war. It is truly devastating.

This a beautiful example of Michael Morpurgo’s wonderful writing style and effortless story-telling. I first read this book as part of an English class at school and the story of Tommo and his brother, Charlie’s experiences during the War stayed with me long after the final page. I took great pleasure in re-reading this superb story. And I am not ashamed to admit that it brought me to tears.

I feel that this is a particularly poignant story as the centenary of the First World War is marked this year.

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4 comments on “Private Peaceful

  1. I’m also beginning a PGCE in September and have done very little preparation, I figured I better enjoy myself because things are about to get hardcore. I’ve totally written off a social life when it begins so I’m trying to see as many people as possible in the next four weeks. However, your plan to read as many different children’s books as possible sounds like a great way to prepare. Which other children’s books are on your list? What kind of PGCE are you doing?

    • I’m going an Upper Primary PGCE :). Reading is the only real preparation I have done as it’s not really difficult or time consuming. I’m still working full time at the moment, though I finish on Thursday *happydance*
      I’ve read a few books by Jacqueline Wilson, storybooks by Allen and Janet Ahlberg, Skellig by David Almond, a couple by Anne Fine. I’m currently battling through Philip Pullman’s The Northern Lights. I still have a couple more to read but I don’t think you need to read tonnes, juat get an idea of different styles and reading levels.
      I’m really nervous about the course, I know it’s going to be really intense. No social life for me either!
      Good luck with yours, I hope you enjoy it 🙂

  2. My 7 year old sister is very keen on Jacqueline Wilson, as was I, so it’s great to be re-reading some with her. I remember enjoying Dick King-Smith when I was very young too, particularly good for kids who like animals.

    Thank you, best of luck to you too.

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