This is another case of 'why haven't I read this sooner'? Published in 2019 and shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2020, 'Our Castle by the Sea' by Lucy Strange is a gripping and beautifully written wartime adventure.
Petra lives with her family in a lighthouse on the southern coast of England, where legends of a dangerous sea wyrm and the Daughters of Stone capture her imagination. When war is declared and her family is torn apart, Petra faces greater terrors. Soon her destiny will call, will sing to her from the sea, but will it be enough to heal the wounds of war?
'Our Castle by the Sea' is poetic and thrilling with a story expertly crafted, leaving you guessing until the very end. Lucy Strange brilliantly snakes together the mythic with the historical, creating tension, beauty and mystery with breathtaking skill. Descriptions of the coastal landscape around the lighthouse, the changes in weather, the allusions to legend, the foreboding sense of war, are all spellbinding. Together it makes for a fabulously addictive read.
I also learned surprising things about the Second World War. I'd never really considered what would happen to foreign nationals in Britain; how many were classified into categories of risk, put on trial for treason or sent to internment camps. To see history from another perspective, and not simply glorify Britain's response to war, is refreshing as well as educational. For instance, Petra's sister's arguments about Britain's 'Pied Piper' strategy for children is illuminating and a fascinating look at the historical detail. Like a lighthouse itself, Lucy Strange brilliantly shines a light. On top of this, Petra is a wonderful narrator to guide us through the complexities and emotions wrapped up in this era.
I cannot recommend this highly enough. Myths, war, spies, the sea: what more could kids want in a book!