Postcards From No Man's Land

( 14 )


Seventeen-year-old Jacob Todd is about to discover himself. Jacob's plan is to go to Amsterdam to honor his grandfather who died during World War II. He expects to go, set flowers on his grandfather's tombstone, and explore the city. But nothing goes as planned. Jacob isn't prepared for love&150or to face questions about his sexuality. Most of all, he isn't prepared to hear what Geertrui, the woman who nursed his grandfather during the war, has to say about their relationship. Geertrui was always known as ...

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Seventeen-year-old Jacob Todd is about to discover himself. Jacob's plan is to go to Amsterdam to honor his grandfather who died during World War II. He expects to go, set flowers on his grandfather's tombstone, and explore the city. But nothing goes as planned. Jacob isn't prepared for love&150or to face questions about his sexuality. Most of all, he isn't prepared to hear what Geertrui, the woman who nursed his grandfather during the war, has to say about their relationship. Geertrui was always known as Jacob's grandfather's kind and generous nurse. But it seems that in the midst of terrible danger, Geertrui and Jacob's grandfather's time together blossomed into something more than a girl caring for a wounded soldier. And like Jacob, Geertrui was not prepared. Geertrui and Jacob live worlds apart, but their voices blend together to tell one story&150a story that transcends time and place and war. By turns moving, vulnerable, and thrilling, this extraordinary novel takes the reader on a memorable voyage of discovery.

Winner of the 2003 Michael L. Printz Award

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Winner of both the prestigious Michael L. Printz Award and Britain's Carnegie Medal, Aidan Chambers's sophisticated and rewarding Postcards from No Man's Land weaves together past and present, connecting the experiences of two Jacob Todds -- a deceased war hero and his teenage grandson -- across time and place.

Seventeen-year-old Jacob Todd goes to Amsterdam to honor the memory of his grandfather, a soldier who died in the WWII Battle of Arnhem. Shortly after arriving in the city, Jacob is robbed by a transvestite and forced to stay with the outspoken grandson of Geertrui, the woman who cared for Jacob's grandfather during the war. During his stay, Jacob comes to learn more about Amsterdam, his own sexuality, the history of WWII in the Netherlands, and the remarkable Geertrui, whose wartime experiences unfold in a compelling parallel story line.

As she lies dying of cancer, Geertrui discusses her life as a young woman during the Nazi occupation, including the tale of how she tended to -- and fell in love with -- Jacob's grandfather. But as the old woman prepares for her assisted suicide, she confesses a deep secret that brings their worlds closer than young Jacob ever could have imagined.

Chambers's novel is multilayered and thought-provoking, covering many difficult topics in its sophisticated, often surprising plot. The book is filled with contrasts and connections between Jacob's experiences in contemporary Amsterdam and the wartime history of Holland, and the author even uses the Dutch language and Amsterdam itself to link Jacob to the past and to his own self-discovery. A remarkable read for teens and young adults, this is one award winner that lives up to its hype. Matt Warner

From the Publisher
"Sophisticated teenage readers yearning for a wider view of life may find themselves intoxicated by this Carnegie Medal-winning novel." (Publishers Weekly, starred review.
"Moving and multilayered . . . this novel is beautifully written, emotionally touching, and intellectually challenging." (VOYA)
Publishers Weekly
"Jam-packed with ideas and passionate characters, this sophisticated novel entwines two narratives, one centered on Jacob and set in mid-1990s Amsterdam and the other in 1944 during the Battle of Arnheim," said PW in our Best Books citation. Ages 14-up. (June) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Author of The Toll Bridge (HarperCollins, 1995/VOYA February 1996), Chambers won the prestigious Carnegie Medal in 2000 for this latest novel. The moving and multilayered story about families, secrets, war, and coming-of-age interweaves two parallel stories. In the first, seventeen-year-old Jacob Todd arrives in Holland from his home in London to attend a memorial service for victims of the World War II battle of Arnhem. His grandfather, also named Jacob Todd, was wounded in that battle and was sheltered and cared for by a Dutch family, particularly by the daughter, Geertrui. The second story is Geertrui's tale of those last months of the war, as she hides Jacob from the Nazis, cares for his wounds, and inevitably, falls in love with him. Young Jacob's story includes his obsession with Anne Frank's diary, his exploration of Amsterdam, and his growing sense of himself, his past, and his sexuality. He finds himself in the midst of a crisis in Geertrui's family as well. Geertrui's cancer is terminal, and she has decided to have an assisted death. Her daughter, Tessel, and her grandson, Daan, have their own issues with young Jacob's presence at this difficult time, but Geertrui has invited him and has even written down her story of the war years expressly for him to read. The novel builds in intensity and depth and ends without all of the loose ends tied neatly. This novel is beautifully written, emotionally touching, and intellectually challenging. The first person Jacob meets in Amsterdam hands him a matchbook with a message that could apply to the book: "Be prepared. Nothing in Amsterdam is what it appears to be."
— Sarah Flowers
From The Critics
Sophisticated high school readers will enjoy award-winning author Aidan Chamber's latest. The novel features parallel story lines revolving around two main characters. Both stories take place in Holland but take place fifty years apart. Jacob is a moody, cerebral British tourist who travels to Amsterdam to attend the ceremony honoring his fallen grandfather. Upon arrival, the seventeen-year-old finds himself intrigued by a mysterious ingénue, mugged, lost, found and deposited on the steps of a complete stranger's house. Through his host, the unconventional grandson of a family friend, he is led to a family secret which will cause him to question his identity, as well as get him into a serious moral predicament. Geertrui is the obedient daughter in a proper Dutch family. Her conventional life is overturned as Allied and Axis forces battle over the ruins of 1944 Holland. Geertrui chooses to protect a British soldier from the Germans who have reoccupied her city. This action will not only endanger her, but the choices she makes while protecting him will affect generations to come. While it doesn't take long for the reader to realize that Geertrui's patient is Jacob's grandfather, twists of plot steer the reader to consider controversial topics including questions of sexual identity and ethical issues like euthanasia. Unlike many novels, these issues aren't tied up neatly at the end. They are left for the reader to wrestle with to find his or her own answers, as we do in real life. Aidan Chambers is a well-known writer of both adult and teen fiction. Although the book stands well on its own, it is actually the fifth in a series beginning with Breaktime (HarperCollins, 1979). The next twonovels, Dance on My Grave (HarperCollins, 1986) and The Toll Bridge (HarperCollins, 1995) were honored with Carnegie medals. They were followed by, Nik, Now I Know (HarperCollins, 1988). Postcards from No Man's Land, netted him yet another Carnegie, as well as the Hans Christian Andersen Author Award. The sixth book will likely be published this year. 2002, Dutton,
— Michelle Wehrwein Albion
Jacob, a 17-year-old English boy, has come to Amsterdam to honor the memory of his namesake grandfather at a memorial service for British soldiers who fought against the German occupation of the Netherlands in WW II. This grandfather was wounded at Arnhem, and though a Dutch girl tended him lovingly, he died in Holland. There are two alternating narratives in this intricately plotted tale: that of shy, insecure, present-day Jacob learning about Amsterdam and Dutch customs, making new friends, and finding out more about himself and his family's past; and the journal of Geertrui, the 19-year-old girl who cared for his grandfather. In the present, Jacob has his money swiped, meets fascinating characters like brash Daan and his attractive gay friend Ton, and finds himself a girlfriend—at his grandfather's grave. In Geertrui's narrative, we learn about the privations of life in occupied Holland, the awfulness of battle and the youth and bravery of the soldiers. Geertrui defies her parents and takes wounded Jacob into hiding in the countryside with her, where they become lovers. The connection between the two narratives becomes clear toward the end when Jacob meets Geertrui, on her death-bed, and learns about how his family and hers are linked. Winner of the UK's Carnegie Medal, this is a complex and thought provoking novel. Geertrui's narrative, with its drama of love and war, is the more exciting, but Jacob's present-day journey toward knowledge and self-acceptance is also intriguing, as he tries to understand his own sexuality and the sexual openness of his new friends and learns more about love, art, and life. For sophisticated, mature YA readers. Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults.
— Paula Rohrlick
School Library Journal
This book received international acclaim after its 1999 publication in Europe. Older teens on this side of the Atlantic now have a chance to read the two complex and challenging narratives intertwined in this beautifully written novel. When 17-year-old Jacob travels solo from England as his grandmother's representative at a ceremony in the Netherlands commemorating the World War II Battle of Arnhem, he is transformed. Jacob is intrigued and excited by new ideas engendered by initially bewildering experiences: the strangely disturbing Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, new acquaintances who cross gender lines, and, most of all, the imminent assisted death of the elderly lady who was his grandfather's wartime nurse and has kept in contact with his family. This frail Dutchwoman, the second narrator, has her own startling tale to tell, recalling in detail her short but passionate relationship with another Jacob long ago, when the whole world seemed to be burning and when serious, irrevocable choices were made in haste. The protagonists in these coming-of-age stories face real-world decisions involving love, sexuality, and friendship, linking the teenagers across time and generations, and leading to a conclusion as convincing as it is absorbing and thought-provoking. -Starr E. Smith, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Seventeen-year-old Jacob Todd has come from England to Amsterdam to honor his grandfather, also named Jacob Todd, a British soldier who fought and died in Holland in 1944. Early on, Jacob is robbed, meets a sexy woman who turns out to be a man, is helped by a kind older woman, and finds himself on the doorstep of his cousin Daan. Jacob's journey is paralleled by the story of Geertrui van Riet, his Dutch grandmother. Geertrui is old now and dying of cancer, and she wants Jacob to know her story, which is also the story of his grandfather. "It matters that you know your place in the world," she tells Jacob. Jacob's grandfather is the connecting link in the dual narratives of this novel; though he had a family back home in England, he fell in love with Geertrui, and their relationship has become part of young Jacob's inheritance. Chambers's Carnegie Medal-winning work is a rich, complex story that tackles big themes: time, death, happiness, love, sex, war, and the meaning of life. It covers much ground, from WWII to the present, from Anne Frank to Ben Jonson to Rembrandt and his son Titus. Jacob realizes that finding his place in the world involves understanding the past, observing life with complete attention, and holding onto ideals. "You have to know your own truth and stick to it. And never despair. Never give up. There's always hope." This is a wide-ranging, challenging, beautifully written novel for older teenagers and adults who love to settle into a big, rewarding story.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142401453
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 6/17/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 328,766
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.38 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Aidan Chambers is an author of novels and plays. Born in the north of England, he worked as a high school teacher for eleven years, during which time he was also a monk for seven years, before he left both teaching and the monastery to establish himself as a full-time author. He has written for many newspapers and journals as well as television and radio, and is well known as a writer and lecturer on the nature and value of reading and literature. In 1969 he and his American wife Nancy founded Thimble Press, which publishes books about children's literature and the magazine 'SIGNAL: Approaches to Children's Books', internationally recognized as one of the most important in its field. His books are published in many languages. Among other prizes, his novel Postcards From No Man's Land was honored with the Carnegie Medal, Britain's most prestigious recognition for children's and youth literature, and the Italian Andersen Award. He is also the recipient of The Children's Literature Association Award for excellence in literary criticism, and the British Eleanor Farjeon Award for outstanding services to children's books. He is currently writing the sixth and last of his youth novels which make a family Sequence, a body of work he describes on the BOOKS page of his Web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 14 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2005

    Freshman High Schooler

    I have read many books in my life time. This book was ok for my taste, which is war books. Although it was mainly to my opinion a love story, I still thought it was ok. It kept me interested enough to finish it and think about it. But, I do think if I read It again, I would like it a lot better. I definitely recommend this book who likes books with romance.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 25, 2012

    Great start, but gets pretty bad pretty fast

    This book independently tracks two people's story, one of a 19 year old Dutch girl named Geertrui during the German occupation of Holland in WWII. The other story is about a 17 year old British kid named Jacob who visits Holland to see the dying Geertrui when she is old several decades later. The beginning of his stay there is terrible but he soon starts to develop some character.The major theme in this book is "nothing ventured, nothing gained," or in other words, if you don't try something and expose yourself to danger, then you will not gain or get anything. Another theme in the book is exploring your true personality and what really matters to you, which is really shown in Jacob's story more than Geertrui's story. I liked the plot for the first 120 pages or so of the book. It interestingly alternates around a Dutch girl trying to stay alive during the German occupation and a young British boy having trouble in a foreign country. I also liked on the very idea of trading off between two seperate stories in one book. It kept me interested and I wasn't forced to have to read one story for a long period of time. However, I disliked practically the rest of the book. This is because I disliked the author's attempt to try to add romance into the book. What started out as an interesting survival book turned into a love story. Some people may have enjoyed this, but I had to force myself to finish the rest of the book. Authors love to add unneccessary romance into books, and it completly ruined a good novel for me. Someone who likes romance books should read this book, I guess they will enjoy it. However, people who are looking for an action or adventure book will be dissapointed here, because although it starts good, it gets dissapointing really fast. So, overall, I would give it a 3/5 because of the good start, but terrible ending.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 18, 2011

    Strange...But Still Okay

    I own and have read an abundance of books, but this one stands out. It is not a great book by any means, but it was not that bad either. Maybe it is because I am not one who enjoys two era perspective books, but their stories were so different that it was hard to keep track of everything. The WW2 parts were excellent, but the modern day story line lacked a...entertaining quality. So, yes it was okay and strange, but I would not recommend to many people.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2009

    Great book, BUT...

    This is a wonderful book - the author does a great job of intertwining the two stories. I would just like to put forth the following caution to fellow parents looking for books for their kids: There is a discrepancy between the recommended age - on the B&N entry, it says ages 12 and up, but Publisher's Weekly and Kirkus Reviews recommend it for 14 and up or for older teenagers and adults. I bought this on line for my daughter's 13th birthday, based on the 12 and up recommendation, but when I got it and looked at it I decided against giving it. I ended up reading it myself (and thoroughly enjoyed it), but certainly felt glad that I hadn't given it to my daughter at this point in time, as I do feel the book is too explicit for young teens.

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  • Posted May 3, 2009

    What i think of it

    I think that this is a very excillent book. Normally i would go for a fairy tale type of book but this one actually caught my eye and my mind told me to read it and it was amazing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2008

    When in Amsterdam...

    I picked up this book not really knowing what to expect. A book about an Englishman in Amsterdam, simultaneously playing out the story of a WWII romance. But in the end, I found myself to love this book. I was impressed by the author's ability to switch from one writing style to another, one point of view to another, and never lose the story in the process. I additionally enjoyed the characters very very much. I was able to relate to both the main character (Jacob) and the other point of view (Geertrui.) Overall, an excellent read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2007

    A reviewer

    'Postcards From No Man's Land' is simply one of those books you can't put down even if you tried. It just seems to captivate you with Chambers' words and story line. A heartfelt story that tugs at your heart strings. Beautiful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2006

    Reading is great

    I can't even explain how great this book is... Magnificant!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2005


    This book was amazing!The book's characters asked questions that every person should ask themselves one day. There were so many twist in turns in this book that i read very slowly at the end so i wouldn't have to finish it. It is just one of those books that you wish was long as a J.K. Rowling book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2005

    Best Ever

    I have read over 300 books and I'm fifteen and i absolutely love it. Has so much within it's unbelievable. Mystery, double story line wrapping into one plot, major debates, and romance. Recommend to anyone who will listen.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2005

    chance's thoughts

    I think the book Postcards from no man's land was a good book. One of the reasons it is a good book is because of the wierd things that happens in it. Anouther reason is it makes you think by switching from people to people.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2004

    Arianna G-College Comp

    I thought this book was an excellent read.I found it my looking at the cover. The author kept me interested by the way he put the story together.I would defiently recommend this book to any nad every one. Wonderful, writting structure.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2004

    Best book ever

    I read a book a day and this book is by far the best book I've ever read. It includes everything you could ever want self discovery, suspense, romance, conterversy, and all in the same book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2003

    An Outstanding Novel

    This book was quite unique, but very excellent. The stories, which seem at first parallel keep things interesting. The key to the excellence of the book is that we uncover the truth with Jacob instead of knowing the connections of the two stories all along. The characters are pretty straightforward, but still interesting. The author has a brilliant writing style, and often slips in great words of wisdom, which could stand by themselves as great quotes. The constant use of Dutch is at first a bit exasperating, but with a dutch-english dictionary, I'm sure it's not that bad.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2003

    Postcards From No Man's Land

    In the old city, Amsterdam, a story is told that intertwines the past and the present. The present story is of a young English teenager, Jacob Todd, visiting Holland to honor the battle of Amsterdam. Behind this is a story of the past of the Second World War and British soldiers fighting in a Dutch area. This story was of a loving relationship between a young Dutch girl and a wounded British soldier. Throughout the story, Aidan Chambers gives the reader a full taste of the Amsterdam life. He uses the cultures and customs to define the national characters of the English and the Dutch. The story was thoughtfully written with the events of the past growing an importance to Jacob in the future, showing the creativity of the story. It takes the reader on a memorable voyage of family secrets and discovery a man¿s self-identity to connect the past with the future.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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