Sunday, September 10, 2017

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

When last we left our evacuees, Ada Smith and her younger brother Jaime, they had been taken away from Susan Smith (no relation), with whom them had been living after being evacuated from London, and brought back to London by their mother despite the constant bombing. Sure enough, one night during an air raid, they don’t make it to the shelter because of Ada’s severely clubbed foot, and in the midst of everything, Susan appears to take them back to her house in the countryside.

Now, with her club foot surgically corrected, thanks to the generosity of her best friend’s wealthy parents, Lord and Lady Thorton, Ada returns to the country with Susan and Jaime. And, since Susan’s house has been destroyed by a bomb, they will be living in a cottage on the Thorton estate. 

Then word comes that Ada’s mother was killed in a bombing raid, and Ada finally begins to feel that maybe she isn’t the terrible person her mother always said she was. When Susan becomes their legal guardian, Jaime immediately begins to call her Mum, but Ada can’t bring herself to do that, and actually resents that Jaime could do it so easily. Calling Susan Mum would require a level of trust that she will always be there, and as Ada knows all too well, you just can’t count on that during a war.

When the government requisitions the Thorton manor for war use, the very formidable Lady Thorton moves in with Susan, Ada and Jaime. And when Ruth, a Jewish refugee from Germany is brought there by Lord Thorton to receive math instruction from Susan, so that she can eventually join him in his secret war work in Oxford, things really get tense. Ada and Jaime are convinced that Ruth is a spy, but Lady Thorton takes an immediate dislike and intense to Ruth, seeing her only as a enemy German, and the reason her son Jonathan had joined the RAF and put his life in danger.  

Ruth and Ada don’t hit is off, either, until they discover a mutual love for horses. But Lady Thorton refuses to let Ruth anywhere on the estate property, except the cottage, and especially the stables. When Susan gives her horse Butter to Ada as a gift, Ada lets Ruth ride her in secret and slowly the two girls develop a fragile friendship.

There is lots going on in The War I Finally Won, which I liked. War is a chaotic, confusing, demanding time and Bradley has really captured that. At the same time, the characters that appeared in The War That Saved My Life have the same feel to them, as they should, and even Jaime, whom I felt was a little thin as a character before has become a more developed personality. 

The thing I found most interesting was the relationship between Susan and Ada. In the first book, it seems so clear cut, but now, Ada keeps Susan at an unexpected distance. Why? With her mother dead and gone (no, that is not a spoiler), I had expected that the three of them would form a nice, lasting family unit. But, ironically, it will take more loss, more sorrow and the realization that anything could really be gone in the blink of an eye for Ada to finally see the need to let herself trust more and that is the war she must finally win. 

The War I Finally Won is so more than just a satisfying coming of age sequel. While it explores the theme of trust, within that theme, it also explores the idea of how we define family. For those who haven’t read the first book, The War That Saved My Life, I would highly recommend doing so (though it isn’t necessary to enjoy this second book). Luckily, The War I Finally Won won’t be available until October 3, 2017, so there’s still plenty of time to read, or for some to re-read book 1.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an EARC received from the publisher

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is a weekly event hosted by Shannon Messenger at Book Ramblings, and Plenty of Shenanigans


  1. Sounds like a lot is going on in the outward plot and inward journey in this story. So much happened in the character's lives. I guess that is true for many people in war times. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. I can hardly wait to read this sequel. I loved the first book so much. I scanned your review so it didn't influence my reading the book. I'm glad you found it very satisfying!

  3. I've had the first book on my TBR pile for much too long. This gives me motivation to start that one so I'm ready for book two. Books on WW II are an important source of learning for young people. Thanks for the review.

  4. I've seen this book around, and I'm totally fascinated. I love the World War II time period, and both titles are incredibly intriguing. Thanks for featuring--I'm going to be looking for these!

  5. This sounds like a great read, with plenty going on to encourage growth. I really enjoy books set in WWII (or thereabouts, as my spotlight is this week) so I'm sure I'll be back to see your blog again! Happy MMGM a day late!


  6. This sounds like a wonderful book. Thanks for telling me about it and the first book.