Historical fiction – my all-time favorite genre. I love losing myself in the lives of characters from other time periods. Queens during the Middle Ages, soldiers during the Revolutionary War, Jews hiding from the Nazis during World War II – I never thought I’d read about a young American girl during the Cold War Era, though … until I received a complimentary copy of Bertie’s War from Kregel Publications.
To some of you, I’m a young whipper-snapper and was born well after the Cold War fearfulness ended. I remember when the Berlin Wall was torn down, but I don’t remember President Reagan telling Mr. Gorbachev to tear it down. No one was afraid of the Russians by the time I came along … at least, not that I ever knew about.
After reading Bertie’s War, though, I feel that I have a better grasp on the events and emotions in America during the early part of the 1960s. I’ve seen those “Fallout Shelter” signs in various places, but I never realized before that many people thought the shelters would really be used … or that some children were terrified of the possibility of nuclear attack.
Written by Barbara Tifft Blakey, Bertie’s War tells the story of 12-year-old Roberta who spends most of her time in a make-believe world where everything is wonderful and she is in complete control. In the real world, Bertie dreads hearing the nightly news reports about Russian missiles in Cuba. When her father reads newspaper articles about nuclear testing aloud at the dinner table, Bertie struggles to fill her mind with enough pleasant thoughts that her ears won’t hear the words.
I could identify with Bertie’s make-believe world because I was a storyteller myself as a kid. I was constantly making up new scenarios and adventures in my mind. Some of Bertie’s world was hard for me to understand or even to accept, though. Her family basically never talks to one another, even when a family member dies or when Bertie “flips out” (to use the modern phrase) during a news program. I know some families are more reserved than others, but some of the situations seemed less-than-realistic.
After months of thinking her father cares nothing about the family’s safety, Bertie finally realizes that he has been working hard all of this time to build and stock a shelter for them. Her relief is palpable, and I could rejoice and relax along with her.
Even with the newly found safety, however, Bertie is still afraid of so many things. In a strange turn of events, her father finally begins to communicate with her and helps her to see that much of her fear comes, not from any outward danger, but from within.
I enjoyed reading Bertie’s War, though I felt that the ending/climax between Bertie and her father was quite modernized. I won’t give anything away, but it was implied that her father consistently used a very modern “teaching” technique with his three children – not something I can believe for a 1962 American family. I also felt that Bertie’s “amazing transformation” after the single conversation with her father was a little far fetched.
Even with the somewhat less-than-ideal ending (and what book does end 100% to my satisfaction? Only the Bible, of course…!), I liked Bertie’s War and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical or contemporary fiction. It was very well-written, the characters are fleshed out pretty well, and it drew me in from the first chapter. If a book is boring or dry in the first chapter, I really struggle with continuing to read it. Bertie’s War is good from the get-go.
Kregel Publications publishes a variety of books to interest readers from preteen to adult. Bertie’s War is available in paperback for just $7.99.
Thank you to Kregel Publications and The Old Schoolhouse Crew for sponsoring this review.
© 2010, Cindy. All rights reserved.