[A Place to Hang the Moon]: A Review

Hi y’all and Merry Christmas!

We are officially on Christmas break at our house and are so excited! We’re loving the snow, seeing Christmas lights, and are listening to Christmas music all day. Hope you are enjoying this holiday season!

Today I am so excited to share my review of A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus. This is a fantastic book to read at Christmastime as it has some lovely Christmas scenes. I have only heard good things about this book. And I absolutely loved this beautiful story!

One of my favorites read this year! Reminds me of everything I love about The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The War that Saved My Life.

A beautiful story about the power of books and of love.

A celebration of what makes a house a home and how strangers become family.

A cozy read for bibliophiles of all sorts.

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Book Summary: “For fans of The War That Saved My Life and other World War II fiction, A Place to Hang the Moon is the tale of three orphaned siblings who are evacuated from London to live in the countryside with the secret hope of finding a permanent family.

It is 1940 and William, 12, Edmund, 11, and Anna, 9, aren’t terribly upset by the death of the not-so-grandmotherly grandmother who has taken care of them since their parents died. But the children do need a guardian, and in the dark days of World War II London, those are in short supply, especially if they hope to stay together. Could the mass wartime evacuation of children from London to the countryside be the answer?

It’s a preposterous plan, but off they go– keeping their predicament a secret, and hoping to be placed in a temporary home that ends up lasting forever. Moving from one billet to another, the children suffer the cruel trickery of foster brothers, the cold realities of outdoor toilets and the hollowness of empty stomachs. They find comfort in the village lending library, whose kind librarian, Nora Müller, seems an excellent choice of billet, except that her German husband’s whereabouts are currently unknown, and some of the villagers consider her unsuitable.

A Place to Hang the Moon is a story about the dire importance of family: the one you’re given, and the one you choose.

I really loved the writing style that drew me into the story from the first scenes in London and continued to keep me invested in the story throughout the novel. It’s hard to describe the style. It’s sophisticated yet simple. Mature yet innocent. Captivating and endearing. I loved the way Albus uses words in the story and learn new words with the characters. The descriptions of people, places and food were beautiful and an important part of the atmosphere of the story. The descriptions of Mrs Muller’s house and the lending library at so homey, inviting, and memorable. I WANT TO LIVE THERE! I want to create a snug like Mrs Muller’s in my own home. I loved the descriptions of the children reading with her and the books they experience together. Also all the mouth watering descriptions of food. Hot cocoa, thick stews, spicy cookies and crumbly biscuits, hot & milky tea, hot buttered toast. It was so cozy and so beautiful and so homey.

Albus pairs incredible style with truly endearing characters. While her characters all have flaws and make mistakes, those traits seem to make them more endearing. I loved the three siblings and felt invested in their futures from the first moments we meet them. William was so brave yet also longed to be a boy experiencing the joys of childhood. Edmund is passionate and stubborn but also kind and loyal. Anna is sweet and hopeful. I love how they all are extensive readers and find solace in books. Mrs Muller is fantastic — loved her backstory and her deep appreciation of books. I wanted to be her friend and to hear her book recommendations. Even the characters that were not as likable were well developed. Their first billets are full of people with hard edges, conniving bullies, and a poor, overworked mother. These people are not nearly as endearing as our 3 heroes and Mrs Muller. But they are developed and complex characters that show the different ways people react to war and the difficult experiences in life. I loved following the journey of William, Edmund and Anna as they search for a place and a person to call home.

This story is beautiful, meaningful, and sometimes surprisingly shocking. There are many unexpected twists and turns. Some of the conditions they live in were shocking even ghastly — bullies, rat catching, lice, cold, hunger, outdoor bathrooms, destruction of books (very upsetting for a bibliophile like me!). It was such a hard life for so long for these kids yet I immediately gravitated to them because of their goodness and kindness. We see such stark contrasts between the other homes the children are sent to and Mrs Muller’s cozy cottage. There is so much depth to this story as it discusses tough issues like billet mistreatment, children going hungry, and the relationships with Germans/British at this time. But all these come through the eyes of children so those topics don’t get too heavy. There could have been more detail, but it wasn’t central to the story so it felt complete on the edges — giving the main plot added flavor and depth. I loved that this is a story in a familiar genre — British evacuee WWII literature but it has it’s own niche and rich addition to the genre. A story of hope, love, and books.

A highlight for me were all the bookish details in this story. I loved all the books referenced in this book. And that she has a list at the end! The whole story centers around the children’s experiences at the lending library. How I wish I could browse Mrs Muller’s shelves and hear her favorites! I loved how central books are to their lives. How difficult it is to pick one book to bring with them when they evacuate. The different books their read with Mrs Muller. Books and tea in the snug. Books helping them endure difficult circumstances in their first billets. The power of books to create a home. The bookish elements in this story were like the whipped cream on top of cocoa or  snow on Christmas Eve. They made a great book a nearly perfect memory.

This book was a comforting experience to me — like drinking cocoa on a rainy day or snuggling up in a fluffy blanket watching it snow. This is the kind of book that makes me love books and reading more deeply. It was so wonderful, and I am craving more experiences like this one. Thank you, Kate Albus!

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What are some of your favorite books?
Which books with great Christmas scenes do you go back to year after year?

4 thoughts on “[A Place to Hang the Moon]: A Review

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