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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
My Brother Johnny
by Francesco D'Adamo
Age Range: 14+
Fourteen-year-old Belinda, (well almost), is a bit of a rebel and a punk. Bored with life in the small provincial Italian town where she lives with her family, her life is turned upside down when her older brother Johnny returns home unexpectedly. Johnny is regarded as a local hero. He has been flying bombing missions in the war ‘Over There’, but when he returns home a shadow of his former self, everyone wants to know why becoming even more confused when he sets up an anti-war protest in the local piazza. This provokes a violent reaction from some members of the community.
Piece by piece, his story slowly emerges through the wry voice of Belinda who is the narrator. “I became a Sower. Every morning I left in my potbellied plane and did my Duty: I planted mines. I had precise orders: the mines were not to be sown randomly, but around the villages and houses, along the water courses and roads, and in the fields....... ‘Oh yes. I sowed. Those were my orders. It was war. Except that in war you fight soldiers, but soldiers don’t plough fields, don’t go and fetch wood or water, don’t go and play along the river bed”.
It is Johnny’s words that convey the message at the heart of this book, posing the universal unanswered question about the justification of armed intervention – for what answer is there that can possibly justify this human destruction?
This is a provocative, powerful and relevant novel for today’s modern world. It is a story that needed to be told. Exploring a big theme in a succinct way it carries a strong anti-war statement provided in Johnny’s own words. Written with adolescents in mind, this is a message that is universal and Francesco D’Adamo’s book should be read by everyone.