4.5 49
by Mal Peet, Anton Lesser, Anna Maxwell Martin

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"It takes a disciplined author to hide secrets within secrets. . . . And it takes ambition to apply such intricate storytelling to a sweeping plot."

When her grandfather dies, Tamar inherits a box containing clues and coded messages. Out of the past another Tamar emerges, a man involved in the terrifying

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"It takes a disciplined author to hide secrets within secrets. . . . And it takes ambition to apply such intricate storytelling to a sweeping plot."

When her grandfather dies, Tamar inherits a box containing clues and coded messages. Out of the past another Tamar emerges, a man involved in the terrifying world of resistance fi ghters in Nazi-occupied Holland. His story is one of passion, love, jealousy, and tragedy, and unraveling it will transform Tamar's life. Mal Peet’s acclaimed novel is read by Anton Lesser, one of Britain's leading classical actors, and BATA-winning British actress Anna Maxwell Martin.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Elizabeth Young
Fifteen-year-old Tamar is on a quest to understand her identity and discover her heritage. An understanding of self is something that has eluded her since her father left five years ago and her grandfather, who raised her, has just committed suicide. The novel weaves the events of 1944 England and Holland during World War II with Tamar's life in modern London (1975-2005). Unfortunately, this format does not make for easy reading, and many readers will abandon the story early. Peet presents gruesome ambushes and attacks in great, gory detail; her various descriptions of insanity are similarly vivid. Though this is recommended for readers ages 14 and up, this book may be only enjoyed (if such a word can be used in relation to this work) by those who have direct connections with World War II, as that seems to be Peet's emphasis. It is difficult to focus on the characters when various monikers are assigned to the each one at various stages; it is even more difficult to handle the blending of another generation into this complex story. Perhaps this would have fared better if the parallel stories were presented separately. They certainly would appeal to diverse audiences and just might be enjoyed by more. Reviewer: Elizabeth Young
KLIATT - Claire Rosser
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, January 2007: This lengthy novel tells how the horrors of WW II terrorism (aka resistance fighting) affect three generations in one family. It reads like a thriller, with the action of wartime (winter, 1945) interspersed with mysteries of identity in 1995. The YA component is that the 15-year-old granddaughter, Tamar, who adores her grandfather, finds out when he commits suicide that his secrets from 1945 ruined the life of his son, Tamar's father. Uncovering the truth changes everything about her family. The resistance action takes place in Holland during the last winter of the war. Two young Dutchmen, trained and "run" by the British, are holed up in a remote area where they both fall in love with Marijke, the young woman at the farm where they are hiding. The spy code-named Tamar (after a river in Cornwall) is having an affair with Marijke and the other young man, code-named Dart, is obsessively jealous. Peet describes their clandestine lives so well that we understand how sleep and food deprivation, constant fear, and suffering and violence make them emotionally unbalanced, to say the least. The granddaughter Tamar is given a package after the death of her grandfather, which leads her on a quest to discover the truth about what happened in Holland so long ago. This is a demanding, carefully written story, with dreadful details of betrayal and violence. (Winner of the 2006 Carnegie Medal and an ALA Best Book for YAs.) Reviewer: Claire Rosser
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up

Mal Peet's Carnegie Medal-winning novel (Candlewick, 2007) deftly weaves suspense and painful emotion with story strands set in World War II Holland and late 20th century England. When her grandfather commits suicide, 15-year-old Tamar is left an odd collection of objects that lead her to Devon, site of her namesake river. Accompanied by a her cousin, and the two young people uncover the dark family secret that began in the Dutch countryside during the waning days of the Nazi occupation. That thread of the story involves two Dutch Resistance fighters in love with the same woman. Brutal reprisals by German troops increase the friction among Resistance factions and add to conflicts between the two espionage agents, once best friends. The story not only follows a determined teen through her anger, loss, and betrayal, but it also echoes those themes in the ravaged landscape of wartime Holland. Narrators Anton Lesser and Anna Maxwell Martin keep the tension palpable and convey the tale's complex human dilemmas. Peet describes the intensity of love and the struggle to survive physical and mental hardships with compelling imagery. Students can easily draw parallels between this conflict and contemporary issues and identify with the title character's search for self. A gripping, well-crafted audiobook for high school and public library collections.-Barbara Wysocki, Cora J. Belden Library, Rocky Hill, CT

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Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Candlewick Audio Series
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Tamar had not been able to drift clear of the surface of the water that rushed up to meet him. He was already fumbling with the harness release when he felt the cold shock of contact; he was terrified the chute would drag him under. He was thigh deep before he felt something more or less solid — a mass of sludge and submerged branches — beneath his feet. With a moan of relief he got free of the chute and saw it settle onto the black water like a gigantic water lily. Then he began to struggle towards the denser shadow of the bank. His flailing right arm struck something hard, and he grabbed at it. It shifted in the water. A boat? Yes.

He was pulling himself along it, looking for where it must be moored to the bank, when he heard someone speak.

"Welcome to Holland, Tamar."

He looked up. On the bank, distinct against the lesser darkness of the sky, was the unmistakable silhouette of a German soldier. The long field-service coat, the jackboots. Cold moonlight glinted from the steel helmet and the snout of a submachine gun.

Even before fear took hold, Tamar was filled with a great and bitter disappointment, a sense of ridiculous failure. He stood away from the boat, feeling broken, and raised his arms above his head.


TAMAR by Mal Peet. Copyright © 2007 by Mal Peet. Published by Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA.

Meet the Author

Mal Peet (1947–2015) is the acclaimed author of the Carnegie Medal–winning novel Tamar as well as the  Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor Book Life: An Exploded Diagram and three Paul Faustino novels: Keeper, The Penalty, and Exposure, a winner of the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. He is also the co-author of Cloud Tea Monkeys, Mysterious Traveler, and Night Sky Dragons, all of which he wrote with his wife, Elspeth Graham.

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