An unexpected gift of an old motorcycle with a tragically romantic past hurls a young orphan into the thick of things as war breaks out and his life changes forever. Half-French/half-German Daniel must find a way to survive in a world that mercy seems to have abandoned. This book transports the reader to Nazi-occupied France, where Daniel unwittingly and unexpectedly finds himself working for the Resistance, and ultimately to the Russian Front in a twist of fate so startling that no one can see it coming. By turns quirky, heartwarming, beguiling and uncompromising, author Marc Sercomb weaves together many moods and colors to tell young Daniel’s story. Beyond engaging, Picasso’s Motorcycle has been hailed as a genuine “page-turner” by those who have so far encountered it.
If you like "The Book Thief" and "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas," you'll love this book!
Sercomb captures the reader’s imagination with the vivacious people of Nulle and their quirky daily routines. Emile’s efforts to purge Daniel of his “German-ness” are balanced by a stoic tenderness. Daniel’s escapades with his tormentor-turned-best-friend, Remy, are riotous. Village debates over the dangers of participating in a blood drive highlight the encroaching threat of war, although life retains some normality during the early years of German occupation—including Remy and Daniel’s pranks mocking the Germans.
The plot takes as many turns as a country road when Daniel leaves home to become a motorcycle racer. Pointed characterization, and crisp, uncluttered prose maintain good pacing with a a looming sense of the unexpected. Classic coming-of-age elements such as first love and acceptance into a community lead into a stark, touching examination of trench warfare from an unusual angle. Appealing characters, startling plot twists, and a liberal dose of comedy make for a historical novel that’s as fun as it is illuminating.
Takeaway: Fans of WWII historical fiction will be delighted by the unorthodox blend of humor and somber realities in this coming-of-age story.
Great for fans of Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief, Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, Julie Otsuka’s When the Emperor was Divine.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-