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Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo

About the book

“They’ve gone now, and I’m alone at last. I have the whole night ahead of me, and I won’t waste a single moment of it . . . I want tonight to be long, as long as my life . . .” For young Private Peaceful, looking back over his childhood while he is on night watch in the battlefields of the First World War, his memories are full of family life deep in the countryside: his mother, Charlie, Big Joe, and Molly — the love of his life. Too young to be enlisted, Thomas has followed his brother to war and now, every moment he spends thinking about his life, means another moment closer to danger.

Reviewed by Reading EnthusiastsReading Group:

The book was beautifully written and very descriptive. However, some characters divided our group – especially Charlie. The story was very moving and the ending even moved some of our book club to tears.

Star rating: ***

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10 thoughts on “Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo”

  1. Review by NWR Book Group:
    All our members were moved by this book and several to actual tears. I cannot recall any negative comments which is very unusual in the group where responses are normally very varied. The tale was simply told and i alone was rather taken aback at the simple sentence structure as i started the book, then realized that the book was directed particularly at children and finally that it was written as a child – a child sent to war. It would be interesting to know if children were as moved as were we older people. The early chapters at first seemed rather a pastoral idyll with maybe an idealized mother who showed such clear and sympathetic understanding of what her sons faced. Soon however the rigidity and, as we now see it, the intolerable workings of the class system intruded, not only pushing the boys into war but following them there in even more extreme ways. The hideous actions of Sergeant Hanley also pinpointed how the powerless when they get some power can wield it.


  2. Review by Hedge End WI Reading Group:
    This book was well written, with good clear vocabulary. Captured the atmosphere of rural life pre 1914 and the horrors of war. A good talking point.
    Star rating: ****


  3. Review by King’s Somborne Reading Group:
    A good book to introduce children to the horrors of war. Plenty of issues to discuss for children. Not an adult book, although many of us responded emotionally to the tragedy.
    Star rating:****


  4. Review by Boaters Book Club:
    It was felt that as a children’s/teenage read it was well-written and concise, with a simplistic telling of a complex issue and an interesting take on social and military history. By the same token, it was felt to be over-simplified with black and white morals and behaviour. We were mostly pleased to have read it and found it poignant with a salutary twist at the end. As an adult read it rated 2/4 but would award it 4/4 as a children’s book.
    Star rating: **


  5. Review by Entre Nous Reading Group:
    A complete consensus that this was a delightful book simply and beautifully written. Country life before the First World War was depicted as was the development of the young men as they moved to the horror of France. A very successful book for young and adult readers.
    Star rating: ****


  6. Review by Ladies of Milford Reading Group:
    Very sensitively written. We especially enjoyed the description of the family life growing up in the countryside. It bought home the horrors of the war in the trenches. An unexpected twist at the end.
    Star rating: ****


  7. Review by Southsea Literature Group:
    Enjoyed by all and provided much discussion. An excellent starter for young people about to be introduced to the literature/poetry of WW1. Tightly structured with deliberately simplified language but ‘it’s all there’. Characters may be stereotypical but are convincing and reflect the clear villan/hero needs well. Style adjusts to also reflect mood of events i.e. short, staccato phrases for war scenes, longer more thoughtful for country scenes. Particularly moving when one knows that pardons for WW1 soldiers executed for desertion or cowardice in WW1 did not come about until 2006.
    Star rating: ****


  8. Review by Star Reading Group
    Excellent! This short read has been enjoyed by our group. Some surprises, some laughter and some tears. “Cider with Rosie” for children.
    **** 4 stars


  9. Review by Stokes Bay WI Reading Group
    This book was enjoyed by the whole group. One person read it twice before the meeting. Another person felt it could be interupted without losing the story. One person was buying a copy so that she could read it again sometime.
    Star rating: ****


  10. Review by The Olive Tree
    This was liked by everyone as an honest account of the country as it was pre 1914 and of the war to follow. A very good explanation for young readers and adults alike.
    Star rating: ****


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