Lorenzo, a young autistic boy lives on his parents’ farm among the salt flats in Southern France. There are lots of things he doesn’t understand, but he does know how to heal animals. He loves routine, and music too and every week he goes to market with his mother to ride his special horse on the town carousel. The carousel is run by a local gypsy family, who during the German occupation of France, take refuge on Lorenzo’s farm. It is the beginning of a lifelong friendship between the two, who both face trouble because of who they are.
This is another string to Morpurgo’s collection of war stories. Love him or loathe him, Michael Morpurgo knows how to weave fact and fiction to bring history alive. The story of the occupation allows the characters to flourish, yet it doesn’t seem forced. It is entirely possible that a Gypsy family would find themselves in the situation they do. Similarly, history tells similar stories to that of the gentle German officer who affects Lorenzo and Kezia’s story.
One thing I have always found with Morpurgo is that he has a way of drawing his reader in through his first person narrative. As Kezia recounted her story to her lodger (Vincent) in the book, I – as a reader – felt drawn into Kazia’s world too. I felt part of the story and a huge draw towards the characters involved. Would this emotional tug been so strong with the character of Vincent? I’m not sure it would. I have heard criticism of Vincent’s role in the book, but for me his inclusion is a subtle way of engaging with Kezia’s story on a deeper level.
This is not a fast-paced story full of twists and turns. From early one you get a good idea as to how the story will unfold. This is a different kind of book. It is a slow burning story, which at its heart is about the characters it portrays. Here is a story about forming friendships in difficult situations, about finding help in the unexpected places and having the determination to succeed in the bleakest of situations.
If you liked this book, why not try The Dollmaker of Krakow for a take of the German occupation of Poland.
Pages: 288 pages
Age Recommendation: 9 year +