Stay where you are and leave


wordle-wwiWhat do these words make you think of?

Grief, loss, dread, struggle, besieged city, falling projectiles, flying bullets, displaced, turmoil, plight, refugee

Look them up in the dictionary if you do not know their meaning.

Look at the following images now. How are they linked to the words above? Jot down some notes so that in class you can discuss in your team.

children of war  oil blood war_machine

When you hear the word “WAR”, what do you feel? What are the images that cross your mind?
How does WAR affect a child’s world? How is a child’s life besieged by a WAR?

kids_at_war children_and_war___fadi_abou_hassanWatch the book trailer. Who is the narrator? What period of time is he referring to? What are the key words?

So we are going to read “Stay where you are and leave”, a novel that will make us reflect upon the experience of a young boy in a war-torn country, of a boy whose father enlist to fight WW1, of a boy whose father cannot flee the horrors of the war thus causing suffering in his family and friends.

Listen to the author Boyne introducing the novel. What extra information does he give us?

The day the First World War broke out, Alfie Summerfield’s father promised he wouldn’t go away to fight – but he broke that promise the following day. Four years later, Alfie doesn’t know where his father might be. Then, while shining shoes at King’s Cross Station, Alfie unexpectedly sees his father’s name – on a sheaf of papers belonging to a military doctor. Alfie becomes determined to find out the truth behind his father’s disappearance…

Where do you think his father is? Did the authorities inform Alfie’s family? If so, who? Why is Alfie’s dad kept away from them? Why wasn’t Alfie informed?

Which bookcover do you like better? Why?

stay where you are and leave cover stay where you are and leave

You can meet the author in person. He will be at Pordenone Legge and you can listen to him and ask him questions if you wish: SUNDAY 20th September at 11.30 at Biblioteca Civica, Chiostro. I will be there, can’t possibly miss this chance.

john boyne

If you wish to deepen your knowledge of the writer John Boyne and who he writes for, you should listen to him in this video.

Who does he write for?
Who does he think of when he writes? Why?
What character is always present in his books? Why?
Why do some critics think he is a historical writer? What is his reaction to this remark? Why are his novels about the First World War so relevant to our time? According to the writer when you write about history who are you responsible to? Why?
What does he do before starting writing?
In what way is he different from other contemporary Irish writers?

23 Replies to “Stay where you are and leave”

  1. I find most appealing the third cover and this is also the cover that catches my attention because is representing the three characters on top of the mountain of trash that is also the main topic of the story. I liked a lot the phrase written on the cover because represents life of three boys: they don’t know what they’ll find when they’re looking for something and also in their life they don’t know what will happen to them.

  2. John Boyne says that he doesn’t write for either young or adult readers. If he did so, he would tend to exclude some possible readers, and this is not his goal. In fact when he writes, he tries to produce a novel as good and interesting as he can and that passes the message he had set out to spread. In his novels there is always a character aged between eight and ten because, according to him, it’s the best age to write about since children still own a peculiar innocence and natural curiosity which makes them interesting protagonists. Another recurring aspect of his novels is the past setting: the author considers himself a only a writer who writes stories set in the past and not a historical writer although all his novels are set in the past. He even reported that writing about the past is the best way to have a connection with present happenings. When you set a novel in the past, in fact, you are responsible for the accurate validity of the characters, and you have to try to create a character who fits well with the society and the époque your novel is set in. As a matter of fact, he does a lot of research and he stops only when ha has found truthful and believable aspects of the story.
    In the end, he says that, despite of the fact that many Irish novelists are bound to launch novels set in Ireland, he doesn’t have a particular need to set his stories in his country, he likes to set the story where he thinks it can be fulfilled better.

  3. After reading the book I’m more aware about life during and after WW1. This war and all wars have a terrible effect on the soldiers and the families too. An example of this is when Alfie perceives and then discovers that his mum hides the truth from him (probably to protect him). Deep down he knows his father is alive and so he does his part to help out in a heoric way.
    Through the eyes and the actions of this boy we learn important lessons of loyalty, courage, conviction and last but not least pure love. But Alfie isn’t the only strong character in this story. In fact, Joe Patience symbolizes the concept of peace and non-violence because he objects to participating in the war. As a Conchie he was put on trial and jailed for cowardice. Many women saw him and others as failing to do their duty and so dishonoring themselves and their families.
    All strangers were seen as spies and this resulted in further alienation of innocent people. Many were rounded up, treated like criminals and sent to prison camps.
    There was a dreadful change in society that caused a lot of heart-break and pain. However, it is necessary to add that there was a change of a different kind after the war where women’s role became almost equal to that of men.
    For me this war emancipated women giving them more rights and opportunities.

  4. I like the second bookcover, the grey one, because it already shows the topic of the book and it is misterious, so it makes the reader be curious.
    John Boyne, in his interview made in Washington DC, talks about his writing and his thoughts and experiences about books. He says that he doesn’t really write books for people of a specific age, but for an audience of readers that can possibly understand the themes he talks about. When he writes he thinks only about himself and the story that he is writing and the feelings he wants to impart to the readers.
    In his books are always present young characters, that inspired him and that he really liked from other books.
    John doesn’t think he is an historical writer and it really annoys him when people think so. He considers himself as a writer that sets his stories in different periods of time and he wants just to show that old events can be find in our present. He actually writes about the First World War to talk about the conscientious objectors (conchies) and the wars that still exist in the 21st century.
    When you write about history John explains that you have to be good at choosing which are the important things to tell and to write a coherent story. In fact before writing he always does different researches about the topic he is going to talk about.
    Boyne is different from other Irish writers because he writes about stories from different parts of the world and he finds it annoying when people say that writers coming from small countries have to write only about the story of their country.

  5. Stay where you are and then leave is a really heart-rending novel written from the point of view of a young boy living during world war one. John Boyne is not a usual writer, he tries to write books for everyone. He only wants to make his readers aware of what was like life during the past specially during wars. He doesn’t care too much about mistakes, but he tries to pass other people important messages. For example he spends some pages of his book writing about “the conchie from number 16”, a man who refused to fight in the war and who was shunned by his neighbours. Conchies were very common during world war one like people who suffered from shell shok and in the book written by Boyne this is clear.
    I agree with John Boyne who finds a book more appealing when there is a child in it. A child is not scare about saying the truth like adults are, because he is not aware of what is really happening in the world. The writer made me understand this when he wrote about Margie and Alfie. His mother lied to Alfie only to protect him, but she made he feel sad.
    I think Stay where you are and then leave deals with really important topics that we should all reflect of and be aware of .

  6. John Boyne is the author of “Stay where you are and then leave”, a really good novel set during the First World War, which is about a nine-year-old boy, Alfie, who discovers that his dad is not on a secret mission for the government but is in a psychiatric hospital, and decides to get him out of it. Alfie does all this stuff on his own, proving that he loves his dad and that he would do everything to have his family back together. We can easily understand that Alfie is the symbol of courage and love, but he is not the only one, in fact in the book are also presented the Conchies, who are the men that refused to go to war. This can be misunderstood with cowardice, because someone can say that they refused while all the others decided to fight and maybe die for their country, but the truth is that they did it because they thought there were other ways to have peace rather than killing other human-beings; and they were also jailed, judged and despised for their beliefs, so if this is not courage, than what is it?
    From this novel we can understand a lot of things, even if it is set one hundred years ago. We can understand that we have to think with our own brain, we have to say what WE think, and not what others want us to think, we have to always believe in something and we must try to achieve goals, in order to live our own life and not the one of someone else.

  7. John Boyne says that he doesn’t like to write for anyone in particular, maybe some books are more direct to adults, and some others are more direct to children, but he says that it doesn’t matter if a child wants to read an adults’ book or if an adult wants to read a children’s book. He thinks that his books are in any case good for everyone who wants to read them, even because the principal character in quite all his books, is a child between 8 and 9 years old; I think it’s because in this way, a child can understand better the story, because an adult point of view would be too difficult and too serious, and an adult can see the story in a different point of view, considering even how a child feels, whichever is the topic of the book. Moreover I think that seeing the war through the eyes of a child makes you think different, makes you reflect upon the way in which the war changes everybody, makes you realize how a child would have suffered in that period with his innocence and vulnerability.
    The author says that he doesn’t consider himself an historical writer, because he just writes novels set in different periods than the nowadays, even because his principal aim is not the one of informing the readers about, in this case, the First World War, though he gives lots of information and curiosities about it. Moreover he says that he tries to send a message to the readers and to speak about nowadays problematics too, practically giving the example of all the mistakes the man did during the time.
    Before starting writing he does some researches in order to be informed, but he doesn’t see the things in the minimum particular, he reads and then when he feels that he can start writing, he just does it. He likes to write about all over the world events, and not just about his country, like lots of other Irish writers, that write just about “Celtic Tiger” thinking that they can’t write about other countries issues.

  8. John Boyne in “Stay where you are and leave” has a look at WW1 from the rather childish perspective of Alfie, a 9-year old boy. This is unusual, because the main war books were written by war witnesses. The novel isn’t a typical war book. It’s the story of Alfie, who never gives up for love. It’s the emotional story of Alfie and his father with aspects of the war, from its outbreak to the end of it, in the background. It’s a great novel for everybody who still believes in the power of hope.
    Boyne’s novel is classified as historical fiction, because historical facts are mentioned. For example: citizens of foreign nations were suddenly regarded as German spies and interned. Conscientious war objectors were insulted or ignored by people who they had known their whole life and tortured. Shell shock.
    Boyne’s plot is focused on the horror of shell shock and how medicine was just coming to terms with helping the victims instead of condemning them. The authors description of this mental illness isn’t bad, but can’t convince anybody, who has seen documentaries of this illness. This is why, the entire story is unrealistic in my opinion

  9. Writing, in the first place, for yourself and then for everyone who is going to read your novel, as Boyne said, is a beautiful concept but even the best way to write a good book. It is easy to understand when something has been written only thinking about what the readers would like or what kind of difficulty the book should have to be appreciate by them and not about what the writer themself really wanted to say. When an author write down the story exactly how they want it, with no filters but their heart and their mind, the reader can feel it and this is one of those feelings that make you love the book. I’m not a novelist, and maybe mine and Boyne’s reasons are different, but I really appreciate his speech and his decision of write his books for himself first, and I appreciate the book too so it works. John Boyne has his own style of writing, from the choice of putting a child at the centre of the stories to the one of setting his novels in the past as they were in the present, without calling them historical books, because he have understood that the best way to know what we are living is knowing what have already happened. There is nothing more contemporary than the past, even if it is a past some people are trying to hide or forget. Human beings have done horrible things, we have to learn every aspect of those things if we don’t want to do them all over again. This is what Boyne’s books do: they tell a different part of the facts we normally study at school, and it’s scary how these are what is happening right now in the world but you can learn even some good stuff most people don’t really know much about, for example the important role of females in the first world war and how it has been the first step to a equality some women are still fighting for.

  10. When I started reading this book, my first thought was: “Oh, it’s the same author of the boy with the striped pyjamas, surely it will be boring and depressing, why I have to read this?” but after reading the first pages I understand I was completely wrong. In his novel, Boyne best describes the WW1 reality in a really simple, although deep, way: the eyes of a child. Our child is Alfie, and his story can’t be found in history books: while his mum is going crazy to make some money and his dad is in a secret mission (or so Alfie was told), our little protagonist seems to be the only one to keep calm and do his little to sustain the family. From his actions I discovered how much important even the smaller sustain can be. Shining shoes can be considered a tramp’s work today, but for Alfie this is a way to secretly support his family that also helps him to find his father. But in a book where the role subversion dominates the whole story, Joe Patience is another character that stroke me: he demonstrated courage and bravery in a very peculiar way, deciding to not fight the WW1 (he’s a conchie) but his own war for peace and humanity. His injuries come from insults and bullying, and not from guns or bombs. He taught me that real goals aren’t always the ones everybody follows, and that your willpower can be your best weapon.

  11. John Boyne doesn’t think of himself as a historical writer, he just writes stories set in past ages, but he does it because he can compare the past and the present, making the readers identifying themselves with completely different characters, at first sight, and far away from the present routine, but actually with the same feelings (it might seem obvious since we are both human being, but in a society so linked to the war and in a society where the war is been over for 70 years, there might be significant differences).
    In “Stay where you are and then leave”, war is seen in different ways.
    Many adults see it as a terrible but inevitable event, that is a bit different from the general vision of it in 2017, where the war (at least in my opinion) is seen as the worst option to choose (although someone even these days shares the same opinion of the people of a century ago).
    However something we should pay special attention to is the character of Joe Patience: the conscientious obiector.
    If he lived nowadays, he would be treated in a totally different way.
    in the book he is treated as a traitor, while all the readers consider him as an admirable and brave person, I think he is been created to make you feel compassion, because he’s been even victim of domestic violence.
    it’s a bit satisfying knowing that the mentality is changed, even if not completely.
    Now he is the victim. Well, actually one of the victims: Alfie, another blameless character, lose his dad (at least in part), and the father himself lose common sense.
    John Boyne is different from other Irish writers because he talks about different topics, not just the Irish ones.
    In all his books he treats a hard issue, telling the story by the eyes of a kid, this is what makes these novels special for so many people.

  12. John Boyne is an author famous for some books he wrote (mainly for the boy in striped pyjamas). He doesn’t write books specifically for adults or for children. He thinks that the concept of audience is not so important for the writing process of a novel. The aim of a writer should be in fact to write a good book. The cataloguing of books in children’s and adult’s ones can guide us in searching a good opera but is not so determinant because a book is simply a book and the story should be as interesting for adults as for children. He doesn’t simplify the language and he doesn’t make the theme softer in children’s books. He only writes books, and no one should be excluded from reading it. This cataloguing is in fact more right for publishing companies than for a novelist. The mind of a novelist should be as open as possible, and these terms are only restrictions. When John Boyne writes he thinks only about himself and that’s not selfish instead it helps him preserve the identity of the book. Maybe someone should think that his books are written for children, but it is not completely true. What makes his novels peculiar is that the main character is always an about ten-year-old boy. He loves writing about this age because there’s innocence and curiosity toward the world in children’s mind. Maybe that’s why we can think that he writes for a children’s public. Some critics also say he is an historical writer, but he doesn’t think that. He considers himself a novelist who uses to write stories set in the past and he particularly likes it because themes in the past cross themes in present and because the books he writes are not devised to tell history but to tell stories. The message of his texts is meaningful. His books about ww1, for example, are related with contemporary wars, so we can see that he was right: past’s themes cross present’s themes. Some people also report his historical mistakes but as we said before that’s not important because the story is more important than being historically correct although he researches a lot before writing a novel. In the end, he thinks he is different from other Irish novelists because he doesn’t feel like he must set the stories in his country like his colleagues because character could fit better in another situation and place.

  13. John Boyne writes for children and adults.
    When he writes a book he checks if he is still on the same tracks he wanted to follow at the beginning of his story or if the story has taken an unexpected turn.
    In his books addressed to young readers, the main character is always an 8 to a 10-year-old child because children have an innate innocence and curiosity about the world at that age, making them characters with great potential.
    These books are therefore targeted to children of the same age group, but Boyne is perfectly fine with this because he knows that his stories have a larger public: he, in fact, tries to make the story appealing to anyone, because he doesn’t like the idea of a forced division of the readers into categories. To him, the categorization is just a “cynical exercise” that damages books.
    Some critics believe he is a historical writer; he just believes he writes books set in the past: he thinks that there are many stories in the world set in the past that encompasses themes of the present. When he writes a novel he uses the past as a stratagem to talk about topics that are still important today: for example, the common idea about conscientious objectors, which in some countries seems to be the same as it was in the days of the First World War.
    When the story is set in the past, the fiction must be as truthful as possible in order to create an organic and believable connection between fictional characters and historical events.
    This is possible only by studying and researching the historical time the story refers to.
    Despite this, he believes that there aren’t “historical-correct” or “historical-wrong” books: there are only bad-written or good-written books.
    Finally, he doesn’t think that since he comes from a small country like Ireland he must write stories set in Ireland: in his opinion, any writer has to be free to decide to set his story anywhere he wants.

  14. The book presents the whole war excluding the central part of it: the fights. You know something only from the characters, while there is not a narration set in the trenches. The story is focused on the part of the society that supported the war effort, the women, and on the consequences the conflict had on the relations and the lives. I like the way the author, John Boyne, writes because it is simply and emotional. Although he does not define himself as a historical writer, the setting is realistic and let the reader understand what the time was like.
    The character I like most is Alfie, for his maturity in the effort he makes to earn some money for her mother and because he tries to not give troubles at home, even if is 9 years old and he has to experience lots of things, like the first ride on a train to catch up with his father. He shows responsibility, but also hope for the conditions of his father, which I think is what gave him and his mum the energy to go ahead.
    Another part that touches me is the story of Joe Patience, who has to bear loads of hits in prison and the judgement of the neighbourhood, which is harder to overcome. This happens because he is a Conchie, that is a conscientious objector, and he refuse the fight. For him killing another human being is something illogical, but this choice is looked as fear of being killed. What I like is the relationship with Georgie, Alfie’s dad, that doesn’t take in consideration the different ideals (Georgie sign up before the compulsoriness of the recruitment). In fact, in the end of the story Joe finds Georgie in bad conditions and he brings him home, waiting for his family. I think he is a brave character, who is coherent with his beliefs.

  15. We can imagine this five-year-old boy (Alfie) seeing his father leave home to fight in WW1.
    For a long time Alfie and Margie receive letters by Georgie, the first ones are “normal”… but after some months the topics that Georgie speaks about change… by the letters that he writes to his family we can understand that he starts being confused and scared and all these things are hidden by Margie because she doesn’t read this letters to Alfie anymore.
    After some months Alfie is worried because his father doesn’t write to them anymore, Margie tells to Alfie that he is one a secret mission because she doesn’t want Alfie to know that is father isn’t well.
    At the begging he doesn’t worry about this but when he starts shoeshining by the train station he discovers that his father is in a psychiatric hospital because he is affected by shell shock.
    Alfie can’t even imagine that is father is locked up in hospital so Georgie with the help of Alfie escapes by that hospital even if he isn’t well but Alfie doesn’t understand.
    One phrase that has astonished me is the one that Mr. Janacek say to Alfie “I do this for the best reason in the world. For love”
    Alfie for love, even if he was only nine years old, has picked up his father by that hospital and tried to make him feeling better.
    We can imagine the war like a tornado… all the things you own or you love are swept away in a second (in the case of this book Alfie “loses” his father) and after this had happen you feel empty but reading this book I learn that in any situation if you are perseverant but most of all you have a goal to reach you can do everything you want.

  16. This novel by John Boyne is a novel that makes you think upon the choises you make and how we behave. the things that, in my opinion, appeare in the novel, are two: curiosity and bravery, two virtues extremely important in a person, and often rares in a 9-year-old boy.
    Curiosity is what suggests Alfie Summerfield, the main character, searching his dad Georgie and what suggests him not to accept everything his mother says as truth.
    Bravery is what makes possible the ideas and the curiosity. Alfie is very coragious, expecially when he decides to go alone to find his father. His mother is also brave: she is forced by the situation to work all day and all night to support a family.
    In the book is also important Joe Patience, Georgie?s friend. He is a Conchie, a coscience objector. Despised by everyone, he denotes lot of goodness.
    John Boyne, author of “Stay where you are and then leave”, says that he writes for everyone, because everybody can read a book, adults can read children books and children can read adult novels. In his books there is always a 9/8-year-old child, because a young boy simbolize the adventurous part and the innocent part of the book. Many times told him he is like a historical writer, but he says that we have to watch at our past if we want to go forward. Ipersonally agree with him, because we don’t have to remake mistakes we alredy did. when you write an historical book you have got to make sure you are saying things that really appened, because you are responsible for wo read the book.
    Before starting writing, he has to obtain information doing researches.

  17. I find this novel very interesting and it makes me think a lot. The language was easy and flowing perfect for every type of reader. The characters are accurately described, especially the main character, Alfie, a 5-year-old boy who live in London with his family. It really interesting see how he grows up during the war with no a father, in the middle of the chaotic London, where he works as shoes-shin boy. The novel is extremely exciting but it touches import topic of the society of 1910s that are very important even now. The author trys to evidence how change the way Alfie thinks, at the begging he was pretty innocent and but then after some years he became more sensible and sly.
    The novel is extremely exciting but it touches important topic of the society of 1910s that are very important even now. For Instance the position of the women and the children during the first world war. In the novel appear how the position of women in the society becomes extremely important in a period when the men are fighting far from England. Women started working in factories and becoming essential for society. I really like this book because it is exciting but extremely deep at the same time. I love the way that it touches sad point with the carefreeness of an 9-year-old boy

  18. The author is brilliant, he created a novel that makes people think, due to the topics it presents.
    “Stay where you are and then leave” describes the society: how people were treated differently like conchies, who were offended and put on trial for cowardice or like foreigners that were consider spy and marginalized. This novel describes how much the war was dreaded by people, not just by the men who were encouraged to enlist, also the relatives had fear: mothers or wifes sawing the sergeants coming to announce someone’s dead, pray and hope that the casualty is not one of their relatives: this is how people could become mean.
    The effects of WW1 are perfectly represented by Alfie’s situation: Margie, the mum, works hard to support her family; Georgie, the father, after having fought a war is recovered into a psychiatric hospital and Alfie, nine year-old boy, who wait for 5 years his dad coming back home.
    The topics that this book present are very deep and the way the author, John Boyne, pens in all of these traits is stunning.

  19. Not only was it for the tough topic, namely war, with which nowadays less and less teenage authors deal, but also for the young main character that made me part and parcel of the story that I really enjoyed reading, “Stay where you are and then leave”.
    The character I preferred is certainly Joe Patience, because of all the prejudices for the conchies that people had at the time and his bravery that was mistaken for cowardice. I was almost crying while reading the part where Joe explains to Alfie the meaning of white feathers that women in the streets give him.
    I said to me ”Luckily I live in a better world, where people are less narrow minded and more open to changes, where we won’t be foolish enough to start others fights that will destroy our lives.”
    But is it really like this? We all see people discriminating others just for the colour of their skin or their sexual orientation, we all see abuse of power by those from the highest social classes, we all know about the wars that are still happening not too far from us, wars that are being fought by children younger than me. How is it possible that here a 10-year-old child doesn’t even know that there are still battles in the 21st century, while an African 10-year-old kid has already become a soldier. We need to stand up with our ideas and make our voices heard, we need to play our part not to let this world becoming a giant battlefield for an infinite war.

  20. After reading this book, I draw my own conclusion and thoughts about it, especially during the moving scene of Alfie, his dad and Mrs Asquith at the end. The return to normality is,since the beginning, the main dream of Alfie because War had destroyed his family and his everyday life. This vision of goal had such an important influence on my thoughts because I compare it to our nowadays goals: change normality and complain about it, don’t be grateful at it. More over, thanks to this book, I could understand how much strong can be the link between a son and his dad and how it can influenced the unit family. The novel also shows two categories of people and their ways of approach difficulties. The first one: those who gives up or make somebody\something guilty of their pains. The second one: those who reacts in front of difficulties and take on them through hope and willpower.

  21. After reading this book, I draw my own conclusion and thoughts about it, especially during the moving scene of Alfie, his dad and Mrs Asquith at the end. The return to normality is,since the beginning, the main dream of Alfie because War had destroyed his family and his everyday life. This vision of goal had such an important influence on my thoughts because I compare it to our nowadays goals: change normality and complain about it, don’t be grateful at it. More over, the novel shows us how strong could be the link between a father and his son and how much it can influence the family unit. Although there are stand out two categories of people and their ways to approach difficulties in the novel. The first one: those who gives up and make somebody|something guilty of their pains and the second one: those who takes on obstacles through hope and willpower, like Alfie.

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