I’m a big fan of Rose Tremain’s and her latest novel is one of her best. It charts the story of two young boys – Gustav and Anton – who meet at nursery school in Switzerland just before World War 2 breaks out. Gustav is an only child whose father has mysteriously died. His mother has fallen on hard times and seems indifferent to her son. He’s desperate for her love and attention. Anton’s family is Jewish, warm and well-off in comparison. He’s a talented pianist but he’s tortured by stage fright. The lives of the two boys become irrevocably entwined and the story’s about the healing power of friendship as it follows Gustav and Anton through the decades. Set in neutral Switzerland, but against the background of war, the story is so often bleak, yet it’s told with such skill that it’s somehow uplifting, with a wonderful, warm twist at the end, that leaves you smiling.