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The Foreshadowing    by Marcus Sedgwick order for
by Marcus Sedgwick
Order:  USA  Can
Wendy Lamb Books, 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD
* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

In first-person journal-style narrative, Alexandra (Sasha) begins her story: 'I was five when I first saw the future. Now I am seventeen.' Since she spoke out that she did not want her friend Clare to die, there has been a wall between Sasha and her family. They live in 1915 Brighton, England, at the beginning of World War I, which is forecasted to end soon.

Sasha hopes to become a nurse, while brother Tom desires medical school like his father. Their older brother Edgar is much bigger and stronger, while Tom is a worrier. Edgar receives his commission as an officer and travels to the battlefront in France. Tom attends medical school in Manchester with little blessing from his father, who is a stern, arrogant, controlling disciplinarian, and prefers that Tom go off to fight in the war. Father specializes in neurasthenia (shell shock).

He finally (and surprisingly) relents, allowing Sasha to help at his hospital with the Voluntary Aid Detachment. She hears a soldier's thoughts and sees death, looking into the eyes of a man whose lungs were damaged by gas. Her thoughts churn inside, 'If I can see the future, then what does that mean? It would be like knowing the end of a story right from the start, almost as if you were reading it backward. And who wants to know how their own story ends?' (This explains why the author begins the book with chapter 101 and ends with chapter 1.)

Sasha's work at the hospital is short-lived as Father (wrongly) suspects his daughter of speaking to others about his work. Sasha's mother is meek and under Father's thumb. Though Sasha can see the future, no one wants to hear her premonitions. She has to keep it all inside. A teacher, Miss Garrett, lends Sasha the Iliad, where she reads of Trojan Cassandra, 'a prophetess who sees the future and no one believes'. A raven appears in Sasha's dreams, soaring like a bird of prey over the city of Troy - 'Was I seeing what Cassandra had seen? ... All around was carnage, and bloodied bodies. Broken chariots and splintered shields'.

On leave from the front, Edgar is uncharacteristically quiet. He shouts out in his sleep. After he leaves, a note arrives from him, that Father reads aloud. But later when Sasha reads, different words come to her - 'I must go now. I had a bayonet put into my back as I was doing the same to another man ... I am dead and I must go.' Christmas morning the military telegram arrives!

Tom is often scorned and handed a white feather, signifying coward. Soon conscription is put into effect, and Tom leaves med school to join the troops in France. Sasha's premonition of another brother's death propels her forward as she assumes the identity of a nurse already approved for travel to France. She arrives to see 'trench-haunted looks' of wounded who 'reeked of death and disintegration'. Sasha forges ahead, determined to find Tom, who is with the Twentieth Royal Fusiliers. The ending is shocking.

Marcus Sedgwick's sixth novel is mesmerizing historical fiction, blended with the supernatural. A polished author, Sedgwick writes compellingly of the Great War - 'A generation of men is like the leaves on the trees. When the winter winds blow, the leaves are scattered to the ground, but with spring, a new generation of men bursts into bud, to replace those that went before. But this is a harsh winter, the likes of which has never been seen before'.

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