Mohinder’s War by Bali Rai

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Published by Bloomsbury Education, 2020.

Mohinder’s War is a thrilling World War 2 adventure story set in occupied France. It’s 1941 and Mohinder Singh’s plane crashes. Mohinder (Mo) is an Indian pilot attached to the Royal Air Force. He’s found, wounded and in hiding from the Nazis, by 13-year-old Joelle Breton. Her parents are members of the Maquis – the French Resistance – and they take him in. However, it’s a life fraught with danger and it’s not long before the family are betrayed. Mo and Joelle must now fight for survival. They flee from Joelle’s village and begin a dangerous journey across France together.

I really enjoyed Mohinder’s War. It’s a short book – only 155 pages – and this suits the fast pace of the story. There’s plenty of drama and action and it makes for an exciting and tense read.

The book’s themes of war and resistance are powerfully and sensitively explored. Particularly potent are the descriptions of loss: the loss of Joelle’s childhood, her family and home; and the loss of a country to an occupying force. I was especially struck by Bali Rai’s evocative descriptions of occupied France – the deserted, ransacked towns and villages, the fields with crops left to rot, and the “shroud of despondency and hopelessness” over everything (page 101).

Another important aspect of the book is the inclusion of Sikh traditions and beliefs. Mo’s noble character and behaviour is firmly shaped by his Sikh faith and moral code. He shares some crucial wisdom with Joelle during the course of the story. There’s an older French woman too who also imparts her valuable philosophy: “That’s the thing about life […]. We can never go back. The past shapes us. It makes us who we are. It cannot be undone. All we have is what we make of tomorrow.” (page 126).

Mohinder’s War is a powerful book that explores friendship, bravery, loyalty and betrayal and shows us what humankind is capable of – both good and bad.

Rating: 💙💙💙💙

Suitable for children aged 8+

Thank you to Bloomsbury Education for sending me this book to review.

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