Themes - War
Born in 1943, Michael grew up in London’s Blitzed landscape, playing among the bombed ruins of Earl’s Court. His Uncle Piet died in World War Two and his photo often watched over Michael from its place on the mantelpiece, so that to the young boy, war seemed omnipresent. Seeing the great and dreadful impact war could have on so many people’s lives, and his own mother’s grief, convinced Michael that it was, in his own words, “the world’s greatest curse”. In later life, as a writer, this conviction turned into a feeling of duty, a desire to tell children sometimes difficult stories on the matter, such as the beautiful Listen to the Moon, or the heart-breaking Private Peaceful, so that they might fully understand the destructive power that the machines of war give to the human species. As his stories sketch themselves around only one or a few characters, the consequences of war are brought close to home in vivid, often searing detail. Yet, according to Michael, these books don’t really deal with war. Rather, they deal with the possibilities of hope and reconciliation that are born from war: an optimism which shines through in every moment, and have made Michael’s books about war some of the country’s most dearly-loved stories.