Book Review: Tamar by Mal Peet

Firstly, I just need to say ‘wow’.  I don’t know much about World War II and generally not very knowledgeable in the History area so I can’t say if Mal Peet got any facts wrong.  It does state that it’s a mix of fact and fiction in the ‘Notes and Acknowledgments’ section at the back of the book, so there.  Why do I always find myself reading historical novels?  Nevermind why, I generally like them 🙂
The book is structured in sections that flip back and forth in time.  I found that this was very effective in revealing the hidden ‘secrets’ because you would learn a bit at a time and find more things to think about as you progress through the book.  It was set so that you could pace through it at a relatively comfortable speed – not too slowly but not so action-packed that you wanted to skim the paragraphs and find out already.  For me, the ends of each section were like a signal for me to stop and take a break.  I would be content to stop reading for a bit to rest my eyes and continue on later.


The character profiles were built up really well gradually, over time.  You could really understand each of the characters and you got to know them so well.  You could relate to them at many times and almost experience the things that they went through.  The surprise ending was an interesting bonus, although I would prefer it to have ended a different way.  It was a good closing of the book, satisfactory, but not the one I was expecting.  The way it ended made me wonder if it was a last resort idea to make do with, I was really quite shocked because it was so unexpected.  That was a bit disappointing for me.


The book was kept at a good length – not too short that you feel like you didn’t get much out of it, but not too long that it made you bored because it was repetitious/unnecessary.  I have to say though, the epilogue was short and sweet, except maybe a bit too short for my liking.  I wanted more from it, either that or don’t put one in at all, I think.  Mal Peet had good descriptions and I could see the scenes occurring really clearly and it kept me really alert.  The more action-packed and intriguing parts such as with the Nazis made me feel afraid, like the characters were.  Humour was also used which was effective, because it would lighten you up after a tense situation.


I was constantly amazed at the ‘gadgets’ that the SOE had – such as the edible silk and the hidden suicide pills.  I guess my childhood interest of spy stories may stuck have on …  The awkward love triangle spoiled it a bit though.  Some of the puzzles I also cracked really quickly, as soon as I read about it.  It wasn’t really hidden from me any more at some points of the story, but I still wanted to keep on reading to see how the author would tell the tale.  Also because there might be a twist, making me incorrect on my guess no matter how certain I was.


Overall, Tamar was an excellent book! I would definitely recommend it to those interested in historical fiction, or at least wanting to know a bit more about World War II and exploring, maybe.  Those interested in adventure novels would probably enjoy this read too.  It starts off interesting and progresses through ups and downs, finally ending quite smoothly.  Go out there and give it a go whether you’re interested in the genre or not, anyway!  Just try a bit… Four and a half out of five stars from me.