Ada is kept locked up by her abusive mother due to her deformed “ugly foot”. When it’s announced that her younger brother Jamie will be going to the country to escape the World War II bombing of London, Ada sees her chance and runs off with Jamie to join him. They are taken in by (or rather forced on) the reluctant but benevolent Susan Smith. At first, Ada and Jamie struggle to adjust to life away from their mother, but they slowly learn to trust Susan as she learns to love them. Ada learns to ride a horse, to read, and to appreciate that her foot is a long way from her brain and doesn’t define who she is or what she can do.
Ada’s tale of recovery and escape against the backdrop of a horrifying war is powerful and poignant. Bradley’s characters are incredibly realistic and believable, especially Ada. Her trust issues, rebellious nature, protective instincts, and determination make her a strong three-dimensional character that I can really believe in. The setting is extensively researched and presented. I had never realized just how real the threat of German invasion of England was. From the nightly air raids to the threat and reality of watching for spies, to the fact that they dug a hole in the yard so that they could bury their radio in case of an invasion, the war came to life in a different way than it has in anything else I’ve read about the time period. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.