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Private Peaceful (2003)

by Michael Morpurgo

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1,6255810,698 (4.14)1 / 104
When Thomas Peaceful's older brother is forced to join the British Army, Thomas decides to sign up as well, although he is only fourteen years old, to prove himself to his country, his family, his childhood love, Molly, and himself.
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 Name that Book: YA war story with brothers7 unread / 7bookel, June 2013

» See also 104 mentions

English (57)  Catalan (1)  All languages (58)
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
As some of you might know, I’m a high school English teacher teaching Form 2/8th Grade. For our book this year, we’re reading this wonderful World War I era novel by Michael Morpurgo.
Tommo Peaceful is our narrator and main character, telling us the story as he lie during a lull in battle in the trenches in France, digging through his memories and explaining how he even ended up where he is now. Tommo is young – barely eighteen yet – and he’s never really left his sleepy hometown in the middle of the countryside before this moment. Tommo’s life was pretty simple – he went to a sort of school until he was old enough to work, he loved his mother and brothers and this one girl in the village named Molly, and when the war come knocking on their door, Tommo found himself answering the call along with his brother Charlie.
What I find interesting about this story is that it isn’t actually about Tommo. Tommo is an intermediary character, a mere observer to the grander story that is Charlie. Charlie is Tommo’s older brother, two years his major and always his protector. Charlie is infinitely more interesting than Tommo, in my opinion. And really and truly, Tommo as a character only serves to tell Charlie’s story.
What I love about the story is the historical accuracy of it all, without it being shoved into anyone’s face outright. Charlie and Tommo were never very educated beyond their brief stint in school, which means that they have very little knowledge of what is actually happening in the world outside their village. They hear about the war and are very confused about it, not understanding where Sarajevo is or who the Archduke Ferdinand was. They enlist not really understanding what is going to happen to them, and they endure the whole thing knowing then that they might die.
The whole experience of reading this book was actually quite sobering, and I can only imagine what it does to a bunch of twelve-year-olds. The book’s overarching story of World War I does really well to complement the more personal story of Tommo and Charlie and their experience of the world and how the War not only changes it, but ruins it for them. The story is quite sad, but then again not everything can be sunshine and rainbows, and the reality of life in war is death and pain. Without making it too gory, violent or aggressive, the book does a pretty good job of showing that to people.
This book gets a rating of 4/5 from me as a reader (rather than a teacher). I think it’s a really good book and I’ve always thought that Morpurgo is a good writer. The themes of family, death and love in this book are well written out, and I feel like it’s also a really good young adult novel for those who like history.
( )
  viiemzee | Feb 20, 2023 |
I spent two hours last night reading a lovely and incredibly painful story about two brothers, Tommy and Charlie Peaceful, who spend a rough but exciting childhood on an estate in England in the early 1900s. Charlie, three years older than "Tommo," is the leader and protector of the two -- and this doesn't change when they join the war in France in 1916. Morpurgo brings to vivid life the horrors of that trench war in Ypres, with the rats, the lice, and the constant rain - and the awful mud. The war is a senseless meatgrinder. Men - boys - are slaughtered as casually as ammunition is spent.

And Thommo has an awful secret. And he's helplessly in love with Molly, Charlie's wife. So things cannot end well - and they don't. ( )
  FinallyJones | Nov 17, 2021 |
Smoothly written, the passivity of the narrator grated on me and even the most active of the characters seemed embedded in their rolls to an exasperating degree. And as a whole it did not fulfill it's promise. ( )
  quondame | Nov 26, 2018 |
Short but powerful. ( )
  infjsarah | Sep 24, 2018 |
One of the most tragic events of the 20th century was the senseless slaughter and sacrifice of many young men on the battlefields of the Somme,Verdun and Passchendaele. The iconic 1914 recruitment poster of Lord Kitchener, wearing a cap of a British Field Marshall, stares and points at the viewer pleading to their sense of allegiance and responsibility by declaring..."Your country needs you" The specially constituted "pals battalions" resulted in friends, neighbours and colleagues enlisting together at local recruiting drives with the promise that they could serve alongside each other. However many of these battalions sustained heavy causalities and this had a significant impact on their communities at home.

In the small Devon town of Hatherleigh lives young Tommo Peaceful with his brother Charlie and the girl they both adore, Molly. This is family life, village life, captured in the idyllic Devon countryside before the encroachment and black clouds of world war 1 destroys the dreams and aspirations of so many in pointless sacrifice ensuring that life would never be the same again....."We'd lie amongst the grass and buttercups of the water meadows and look up at the clouds scudding across the sky, at the wind-whipped crows chasing a mewing buzzard"....Tommo and Charlie are gripped in the romantic notion of helping to eradicate the threat of the Hun who were attempting to grow their military might and realize their imperialistic ambitions. So the two brothers and close friends from the village march blindly off to war where the initial patriotic enthusiasm dies tragically amidst pointless butchering when the reality of war is revealed...."I could no longer pretend to myself that I believed in a merciful god nor in a heaven, not anymore, not after I had seen what men could do to one another. I could believe only in the hell I was living in, a hell on earth and it was man-made, not God-made"......."the terror that is engulfing me and invading me, destroying any last glimmer of courage and composure I may have left. All I have left now is my fear"....

Michael Morpurgo expertly portrays the senseless slaughter and sacrifice of world war 1 to a young impressionable adult audience. This is achieved by comparing the beauty and peacefulness of the English countryside with the shell ravaged mud filled trenches of France....this was the raw reality of war. Private Peaceful is a sombre novel to be read by young and old. It's simplistic language is very effective in creating an image of a time when the romantic notion of war quickly became a vision of hell and where the loss of millions was seen as an acceptable price for the march of imperialism and the misguided ambitions of WW1 military leaders. Highly Recommended. ( )
  runner56 | Aug 16, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Michael Morpurgoprimary authorall editionscalculated
Meek, ElinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For my dear godmother, Mary Niven
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They've gone now, and I'm alone at last.
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When Thomas Peaceful's older brother is forced to join the British Army, Thomas decides to sign up as well, although he is only fourteen years old, to prove himself to his country, his family, his childhood love, Molly, and himself.

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