Tortured by the sadness of war

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 February, 2011, 12:00am

Burning Mountain
L.J. Adlington
Published by Hodder Children's Books
ISBN 978 0 340 95682 3

Teenage novels as powerful and intelligent as Lucy Adlington's Burning Mountain don't come along very often. When they do, they remind you what good writing is all about.

This complex and brilliantly written book packs a lot into its 300 pages. It covers separate but connected events in three time periods, and when everything comes together at the end, the author rounds off the story with a clever twist.

The burning mountain of the title is the Italian volcano Vesuvius. It erupted in 79 AD and buried the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum under tonnes of lava and ash. The volcano erupted again in 1944 as the second world war battle of Monte Cassino was fought nearby.

Burning Mountain brings together these two dramatic historical events, blending in the story of two British teenagers of today whose elder brother is fighting in the war in Afghanistan.

Adlington begins her story in Pompeii as a Roman soldier tries in vain to help terrified citizens as burning ash and molten lava engulf them.

In present-day England, Denise and Craig wait for news of their soldier brother every day. They have experienced the tragedy of war - their father was killed in the Gulf war in the 1990s.

Burning Mountain covers a lot of ground, but stays on a very human and personal level.