Dear friends who told me that I would enjoy this book several years ago, why did you not hunt me down (yes, clear across the country!) and FORCE a copy into my hands?
Yes, I did enjoy it.
Enemy Brothers is a story that takes place against the backdrop of WWII, but it’s a story that is fundamentally about family, and about the power of love (not romantic, in this instance) to save us. When the book starts, we meet Dym Ingleford, part of a large family, whose youngest brother Tony was kidnapped as a baby. When he comes across a young German prisoner, he is convinced that this is his brother. He brings the boy, called Max, back to his home in an attempt to reinstate him in the family life. Max, however, is entirely convinced that this strange English airman is wrong, and that he, Max, will escape back to Germany as soon as possible.
The central premise of the story, the kidnapping and reappearance of Tony, stretched the bounds of my belief a little, but I was able to read past that. It’s also an old-fashioned book in some ways–the values that are promoted are honor, courage, and fighting for what is right. At the same time, though, I was interested to find that it doesn’t promote unthinking nationalism or even might is right. In a sense, I think what Enemy Brothers provides is the best kind of moral story–a story which is actually a story, and which promotes certain morals but does it in a natural and thinking way. I personally never felt preached at or intruded on.
And also, I love books about families and that, fundamentally, is what this one is. The connection between Dym and Max, the relationship between the younger siblings–that’s what made the book work for me. I could believe that Max might slowly come to realize that Dym might be right after all, because of the way he and the other Ingleford interacted.
I said at the beginning that this is also a book about how love can save us. That strand is definitely most clear in the relationship between Dym and Max. Max, at the beginning of the book, completely believes the Nazi ideology he has been taught. It’s Dym who slowly, over the course of the story, shows him that there’s a strength in love that the culture of hate he knows cannot touch. Constance Savery manages to write a character in Dym who has an almost palpable care and love for this younger brother who keeps trying to escape from him. And yet, I didn’t feel like Dym was necessarily too good to be true–though Max is certainly the one that provides the excitement in the story!
Finally, any WWII story I read at the moment will inevitably be compared to Code Name Verity. Interestingly, I felt like Enemy Brothers was quite close in some regards. First, it has an intimate scope, focusing on this one family. Also, one of the things I liked about Verity and Maddie was that, without reviling the Germans, they never lost sight of what they were fighting against. I think the same is true here. Obviously, the intended audiences are quite different, and Enemy Brothers did NOT reduce me to sobbing tears for an hour.
So, if you’re looking for a nice, slightly old-fashioned story about families and finding your place in the world, with a touch of adventure and a nice sense of redemption, try Enemy Brothers.
Book source: public library
Book information: Not sure of the original publication info, but this edition is from Bethelehem Books. I’d say middle school or lower high school for the age range.