The Bombs That Brought Us Together
By Brian Conaghan
Published by Bloomsbury
ISBN 978 1 4088 7841 5
Charlie Law is fourteen, and has always lived in Little Town. But even during his short life, Charlie has seen the place change for the worse. Little Town is not the community it used to be. The ruling Regime have tightened every screw they possibly can to keep Little Town safe. Or so they say.
The place is weighed down by rules. No going out after dark; no drinking alcohol; no dropping litter in the streets; no criticising the Regime.
Penalties are tough for anyone who opposes the government that runs Little Town. Charlie is a bright and sensible boy, and he knows the rules of Little Town like the back of his hand. He knows it is important to fit in if he wants to survive. But he dreams of what life must be like on the other side – on the other side of the border that separates Little Town from Old Country.
Everyone in Little Town knows that Old Country is a place with massive power and this poses a big problem for Little Town. Old Country sees Little Town as part of its territory, and its government want to destroy Little Town’s independent status and take it over. So far, threats have been just that. But Old Country soldiers are starting to amass on the border. Could the end of Little Town be imminent?
Charlie is worried, and his confusion about what is right and wrong increases when he meets Pav Duda, a refugee from Old Country. Pav’s family has managed to get out of Old Country, but is their life going to be any better in Little Town? Pav is painfully thin, and he doesn’t speak Little Town’s language. The two boys are thrown together because the Dudas move in next door. And despite their differences, Pav and Charlie get on immediately. But their friendship soon brings problems which neither of them saw coming.
Brian Conaghan’s The Bombs That Brought Us Together begins with an unforgettable scene as Charlie and his parents huddle together as Old Country bombs start to rain down on Little Town. Conaghan immediately draws the reader into the story with this nail-biting opening, and for the next three hundred and sixty pages, he doesn’t weaken his grip.
At the centre of Bombs is the appealing character of Charlie the narrator. He is courageous, confused, loyal and honest. As the political chaos around him spins out of control, he wants to do the right thing when he is presented with dreadful choices, and readers will root for him throughout his journey.
There are some weighty themes flying around in Conaghan’s novel, but Charlie’s story never makes for heavy or depressing reading. Conaghan threads a nice line of humour through the challenging storyline, and amongst all the difficulties Charlie and Pav have to face, there are moments of laugh-out-loud amusement. It is worth reading the novel just for the clever banter between Charlie and Pav. There might be a few adult expletives peppered about the boys’ dialogues, but this is never gratuitous or offensive.
The Bombs That Brought Us Together is another dystopian novel, and we have certainly had enough of those during the past few years, but this is a fresh, original and classy read.A highly recommended novel for the start of a new reading year.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com