Friday, 12 July, 2024, Reg No- 06
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White Bird

Reviewed by Raihan Kabir Prince

Published : Saturday, 1 June, 2024 at 12:00 AM  Count : 746

White Bird

White Bird

Brace yourselves, folks! Buckle up for a time trip through history because R. J. Palacios bestselling novel, "White Bird," lets readers travel through the heart of France during World War II. Also, trigger alert for film fanatics: this beautifully drawn wartime novel has also been made into a major motion picture last year. And this movie is my absolute heart and soul. As both an avid reader and hoarder of fantasy fiction, I have read my fair share of novels, but this one is simply beyond the beyond. Palacio, the genius behind many bestselling novels, takes us back to a war-ravaged France in this heart-warming, historical tale with a magic touch of fiction sprinkled in. Here, we meet a spirited young boy (Julian) and a gutsy girl (Sara) whose lives collide in occupied France as both try to survive the impending horrors of Nazi invasion.

The story centres on Sara, an incredibly gifted, school going sketch artist living in 1940s France. Her picture perfect world comes crashing down when Hitlers men invade France and hold all of Europe in an iron grip of fear. One fateful morning, she is stripped of everything, including her home, school and parents. When things take a turn for the worst, a young boy Julian, rides to the rescue and hides her from the horrors of the Holocaust unfolding all over Europe. Julian, initially hesitant, embarks on a life-altering friendship with Sara, learning about resilience, courage, and the best acts of kindness and friendship that light up the human spirit. And blessedly, they are on the same page about all things like books, stargazing, travel and art. As if by an act of magic, Julian and Sara were fated for friendship. But its not an old-fashioned, flawlessly 50s styled, wartime novel, it is more an ace against the odds sort of story.

A truer aspect of life that celebrates the power of undying friendship and the transcendent spark of hope that takes root in the rudest of realities. The novel is gripping in its moment-by-moment account of their growing friendship, their narrow escapes, and the lavishly imaginative slight detours they take to add a few magical stirs to their journey. It is almost as if we are in a fairy-tale moment with the love-charm of these two spirit companions.

Palacios prose is deceptively simple, translating time, fact and fiction into a compelling story on page. The novel shows how she can he narrate history in story-like manner and let you feel its wondrousness. In a sense, the historical narrative flows with a quiet grace that lifts the emotional weight of her story and all of its key and lovable characters.

She creates a set of gallery-worthy Monet-like paintings with words, teleporting readers to a war-torn France. You smell the fresh bread from the Parisian bakery, feel the sting of winter wind, and hear the rumble of Nazi tanks. As a fan of historical fiction, I couldn help but hail Palacios masterful storytelling and her incredible weaving of ideas. She expertly knits together a masterful dance between past and present, blending the stories of Julian, and especially Sara, who embodies the trauma and tragedy of a young girl stripped from her home and forced into hiding in a barn. It is within the dusty confines of this abandoned barn that the novels emotional core takes flight, soaring on the wings of their shared humanity.
The author has crafted a story that is equal parts beautiful and brutal. It is a visual poem that lingers long after the last page is turned, leaving readers with a renewed sense of hope and a profound appreciation for the beauty and frailty of human life during trying times.

The chapters depicting Julian and Saras flights of fancy within the barn are a master class in emotional storytelling. Here, a broken-down wagon transforms into a collectors car traversing continents. Cobwebs become shimmering city lights, and the old, dusty floor turns into crowded Parisian streets or the electrifying avenues of New York. Paris, a city bathed in golden light, unfurls before their minds eyes. New Yorks vibrant energy crackles, a kaleidoscope of sights and sounds that lifts their spirits. Parisian cafes shimmer with golden light, and the glowing neon of New York bathes them in a whimsical energy. These are not mere bits of daydreams; they e portals of their imagined journeys, fuelled by Saras art-obsessed mind and Julians yearning for connection.

The storyline lingers on their shared ups and downs, smiles and frowns, the spark of wonder in Julians eyes as he listens to Saras timeless tales. Knowingly or not, theres a quiet intimacy in these moments, a sense of two souls soaring on a journey of hope and healing and finding the eternal sunshine in each other.

The brilliance of these sequences really draws you into a deep dream-like state. Its a testament to our capacity to create beauty in the face of brutality. "White Bird" is not just a tale of tears and tragedy or the soul shattering horrors of war. Its a love letter to the transformative power of our never-ending imagination. Theres classicism to the storytelling thats almost Shakespearean. The story is unfailingly legend-making, breathtaking, heart-pounding, and heart-killing, in every way it possibly can be. It is in the mundane that you can truly feel the rhythm of this unfolding story sync to the beat of your own heart. In the end, of course, it is the journey of the two star-crossed lovers Julian and Sara that makes this beautifully drawn wartime story count even more.

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