Published by Faber & Faber, 2020.
Voyage of the Sparrowhawk is a wonderful story of friendship and courage. I absolutely loved it! It’s the story of two plucky children, Lotti and Ben, who journey by narrow boat across the English Channel to France in search of lost loved-ones. It’s the adventure of a lifetime.
I found myself rooting for Lotti and Ben right from the start. It’s a really exciting story; so much befalls the children on their journey and you do hold your breath, wondering if they’ll manage to outrun the adults who are hot on their heels!
The adults are definitely the side characters, but nevertheless there’s a great cast of adults. They are firmly divided into two camps: those who help the children and those who stand in their way. The book’s villains, Lotti’s uncle and aunt, are particularly well-drawn characters. I also really liked the character arc of policeman Albert Skinner. He evolves from something of a jobsworth, hell-bent on upholding the law no matter what, to a man who realises that doing what’s right isn’t always so black and white.
The story is set in the first spring after World War 1. I really enjoyed this historical setting. It lends the book a nostalgic tone. I devoured the Famous Five stories as a child and Voyage of the Sparrowhawk definitely has echoes of Enid Blyton.
I loved how friendship is such a central theme in the book. There’s such a fierce and powerful bond between Lotti and Ben – loyalty, understanding and a shared fearlessness and determination.
Another powerful theme is that of war. We witness the destruction caused by war – to lives, to families, and to the landscape. Natasha’s writing is very powerful. Her descriptions are never gory but we understand very clearly the devastating effects of a brutal war: shell shock, fathers mourning sons, and the horror of the war hospital. The casualties there are never described, it’s enough to witness Lotti and Ben’s profound shock after their visit.
Voyage of the Sparrowhawk is a story that’s full of heart – it’s a hug in a book – and I highly recommend it. It’s a completely gripping story and I was torn between not being able to put it down but, at the same time, wanting to savour it and make it last.
Suitable for children aged 8+
Thank you to Faber & Faber for sending me this book to review.