Title: The Goose Road
Author: Rowena House
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Young adult, Historical fiction
Book format: Paperback
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Description:  1916: When news arrives of her father’s death on a distant battlefield, 14-year-old Angélique Lacroix makes herself a promise: she will keep the family farm running until her brother returns from the war.
But she doesn’t realize that to keep her promise, she will have to embark on a long and arduous journey across France, accompanied by a flock of magnificent Toulouse geese.

*Free copy provided by publisher for review…

Review: This is a very emotional book which may leave some sensitive readers feeling uneasy. It’s 1916 in France and Angélique hears that her father has died in the war. She worries about her brother Pascal, who is also serving, and is determined to make sure that he comes home to his family, to his farm. But when someone threatens to take the farm away from Angélique and her mother, she decides to do something drastic to save the home she loves. The home Pascal will return to. And to save it she must make a journey north, across France, taking her geese with her, on foot.

The story begins well and we learn about Angélique, her mother and the whole situation they live in quite quickly. We get to know a few of the other characters too and soon encounter news about her father’s death. The news leaves Angélique with mixed feelings considering the man her father was, and it was this extra storyline that helped draw me into the tale. It wasn’t difficult to get into this, it’s easy to read but as the story progresses things take a dark turn and you begin to read some of the true horrors that people went through during the First World War.

I’ve always enjoyed and really gotten into books set during war times and this one soon became interesting, but there was something about it that just didn’t feel as enticing as some other books. It took quite a few chapters into the story before I could say that I really wanted to keep reading on, that I couldn’t put it down. I’m not sure why but it just felt a bit difficult to relate to Angélique and her situation at the beginning. Towards the end of the book the story becomes more and more difficult to read. It becomes very sad and if you are a sensitive reader or a deep animal lover you might feel bad reading some of the chapters. The sort of things I read were expected and I have to commend the author for being honest about how things were and how people would feel, but there’s something just so sad about it, especially as you get to the ending.

The ending does end sort of well. It’s not a very happy ending for all characters, a mixed one instead. I did like the way the story did conclude some time after the events in the main part of the book, but the ending felt very short and I felt a bit annoyed that Pascal’s story wasn’t given more details. I won’t reveal what happens but after the last lines, I thought I’d turn the page to read one more chapter, but it just ends there, with little mention of some characters and no real conclusion to how life is for Angélique at that time. It just feels a bit disappointing, and I would have liked to hear something about geese, the farm or more about Pascal.

The story doesn’t have any offensive language but it does mention the bleak reality of war. There are descriptions of death and illness, and injuries, some are a bit graphic, and the overall tone gets sadder and more depressing the further you read on. I wouldn’t recommend children to read this, as I’m sure many could get upset, but teens and older who are prepared for a book that gives an honest view of war will enjoy it.

The author’s notes are worth reading, as you soon discover that many of the events in the book are based on real events that happened during that time. It made Angélique’s whole story feel more real and I found the bit about Napoleon and the potential things that could have happened very interesting.

Despite my criticisms I still recommend reading this. It was a lovely book that really does explore the First World War from the eyes of an ordinary French teenager. It’s not a happy book, and it will leave you feeling sad and possibly a bit annoyed at the ending – there really could have been more there – but overall a good book exploring this time period and very fitting considering the recent 100 year anniversary of the end of that war.

Do you like this book?  What about other historical fiction or novels set in war time?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂