Petra and her big sister Mags have grown up in their lighthouse by the sea with their Pa and their Mutti. On the chalky cliffs near Dover, their lighthouse is also home to the Daughters of Stone, four standing stones who, legends say, were turned to stone singing their fathers safely home from the sea. Petra loves their lighthouse life, and all the quiet and wild things about the wide expanse of sea and sky – all except the Wyrm. Although the lighthouse is there to warn sailors against the Wyrm, the sandbar in Dragon Bay below Petra’s beloved cliffs has swallowed hundreds of ships and kept them prisoner in the shifting sands of its maw, their masts only visible at the lowest tides.
But the year is 1939, and more dangerous things than sandbars lurk beneath the waves of the English Channel. With the German army advancing toward the coast of France, a coast Petra can see on the clearest days from the lantern room in her lighthouse, fear is rising in the people of the village. Barbed wire on the beach and bunkers on the clifftops make it clear that the war is coming to Kent, and soon. When mysterious things begin happening in the village – cut wires and fires – it is clear that there is a traitor in their midst. Neither Petra nor Mags believe it could possibly be their German-born mother, no matter what the villagers think, but when Mutti is summoned to a tribunal for enemy aliens, Petra feels her world start to slide out of control. What can one girl do when it seems the whole world is at war not only with itself, but with her family?
Oh, this book! Wow, wow, wow. I have been waiting for the heir to the historical fiction throne that Kimberley Brubaker Bradley’s Newbery Award-winning The War That Saved My Life has been occupying in my heart for several years, and Our Castle by the Sea is a most worthy successor. With old legends permeating the story (and maybe, just maybe, coming to life), Petra’s coming of age is rich with family, history, mystery, danger, high stakes, and one of the loveliest settings I’ve encountered in awhile. There is nothing I would love more than to lean back against one of the sun-warmed Daughters of Stone and watch the clouds and the sea and the Wyrm twisting beneath the waves with its captive prey of shipwrecks – minus the Nazi submarines, of course. Or explore the chalky Tunnel beneath the cliffs with a good jam sandwich in hand. If you love historical fiction, or just a family story that will make you feel All the Things, be sure to pick up Lucy Strange’s sophomore novel at the library this summer!