#MGTakesOnThursday: The Week at World’s End by Emma Carroll

MG Takes on Thursday image created by @marysimms72, book cover illustration by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini

This is a weekly meme started and hosted by @marysimms72 on her brilliant Book Craic blog which I urge you to read. Also, please check out all the other posts and Tweets with the #MGTakesOnThursday tag, you will be sure to find many fantastic recommendations!

If you love books written for an MG audience and wish to take part, the steps to follow are:

  • Post a picture of a front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence.
  • Write three words to describe the book
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

Author: Emma Carroll

Illustrator: Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini

Publisher: Faber & Faber Ltd

Favourite sentence from Page 11: 

When I told Ray what I’d found, I wasn’t sure he believed me.

page 11

This book in three words: Use Your Voice

The Queen of Historical Fiction swoops into the swinging 60s, plunging her devoted readers into the week during which the course of world history hung in the balance. 

Opening a new Emma Carroll novel is like a homecoming. You know what to expect: the domestic details of family life welcoming you in with a hot cup of tea, although when you step inside the furniture has been updated and someone you met as a twenty-something is now married with children.

Emma’s magic is to blend the domestic setting entirely seamlessly with her historic research so that you are utterly transported to whichever era she has mapped out for you. Her next sleight of hand is to take you inside the mind of a child so that you experience this new world firsthand and her writing is so expertly crafted that from page one until the final sentence you are utterly bound up in the adventure that unfolds before you.

I stood for a moment, enjoying how peaceful it was to not hear Bev yakking on, or the radio playing hit song after hit song because Mum, who hated silence, had barely switched it off since Dad died.

p3

Stephanie (Stevie or even Vie, to her closest friend) lives with her mother and older sister Beverley, at World’s End Close, a cul-de-sac backing onto wasteland adjacent to an American airbase. We learn early on that her father’s death occured very rapidly after the onset of an illness that wasted him away when he returned from military duties in an unnamed location exotic enough to give him an impressive suntan. To adults reading this story aloud it will be obvious what has happened to him, but Emma knows and respects her young readership and metaphorically takes their hand when revealing what has befallen him. 

Stevie’s next door neighbour and best friend is Ray, the son of an American airman and an English mother ( who Carrollistas will recognise from previous novels). Their friendship is built on their “otherness”, shunned by the other children at school, he because of his skin colour and Vie because she is so quiet, lacking in self-confidence and, in my interpretation, struggling with dyslexic difficulties.

Right from the opening pages, you are plunged into a world under threat from the Cuban missile crisis, with Ray’s family crowded round the television news listening to a speech given by their hero President Kennedy about the incoming threat from Russia and its communist ally Cuba.

Whilst Ray is captivated by this speech from his rock-star President, Vie becomes increasingly impatient as all she wants to do is drag him round to her woodshed to show him the “dead body” she has just discovered. When she finally gets him to accompany her, the dead body turns out to be a very much alive teenager who has “taken charge of her own destiny” and claims to be on the run from poisoners! With child-like trust, Vie and Ray do everything in their power to help Anna whilst the building tension of impending nuclear war envelops the adults around them in fear and dread. I am not going to describe any more of the plot details because I do not want to ruin your enjoyment of the brilliant unfolding and linking of plot. Instead I will concentrate on the things that make this book one that I enjoyed thoroughly.

The almost telepathic friendship between Vie and Ray, who can communicate with each other just with a nudge; they loyally support each other and extend their friendship to mysterious runaway Anna recognising a fellow outsider in need of help. The issues of nuclear weaponry are explored in a manner entirely appropriate for an upper end of middle grade readership. We see all sides of the argument as presented by different characters. Nana, their late father’s mum, initially supports the idea of all countries holding nuclear weapons as a deterrent, whilst Beverley signs up to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and dumps her “mod” boyfriend when he tries to stop her from organising a protest march. Ray’s father works at the American airbase where nuclear weapons are stored but is presented as a loving family man, just trying to do his best for family and country. The mystery of runaway Anna and the poisoners from whom she is escaping is expertly woven into the narrative and is gradually unravelled to a hopeful conclusion. Finally the power of finding and using your voice to speak up for a cause you believe in, is effectively portrayed. 

The publication of The Week at World’s End was delayed by the pandemic, but ironically reading it in the light of the past eighteen months highlights many parallels of life being lived under threat from a fearsomely destructive force. The appreciation of the small joys in daily life that it can be so easy to take for granted will, I am sure, resonate with Emma Carroll’s legion of Middle Grade readers.

If you enjoy this book, then I highly recommend Emma’s previous novels, some of which I have reviewed in earlier blogposts:

The Ghost Garden

Strange Star

The Somerset Tsunami

When We Were Warriors

Secrets of a Sun King

Letters from the Lighthouse

3 thoughts on “#MGTakesOnThursday: The Week at World’s End by Emma Carroll

    1. Thank you Anne! I’ve been a huge fan since meeting her at our local literary festival when Frost Hollow Hall was newly published. Must admit that I’m a tad worried that her historical fiction is straying close to my lifetime though 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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