Hardach's second novel is populated by characters who don't normally qualify for inclusion in a war narrative.

In a story set during the Second World War, she writes of conscientious objectors, people who bargain with the Nazi regime to get Jewish children out of Germany and a mathematician called back to serve her country 20 years after bowing out of academic life.

It's also about young people ­reaching the age when they have to make adult decisions. Unfortunately for them, this happens to be in wartime, when their choices can have serious repercussions for themselves and those they love.

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At the heart of the novel are two families: the Lambs, who are Quakers, and the Jewish Morningstars. The Lamb brothers, Paul and Charlie, are committed to pacifism by their ­religion and will have to face tribunals over their refusal to join up and fight.

For the more sensitive and artistic Paul, publicly declaring his opposition to war is a rite of passage, an entry into manhood. But it's not something many people, including his sweetheart, Miriam Morningstar, want to hear. Like Paul, she wants to feel part of something greater than herself, but for her that involves becoming an air raid warden and working in a munitions factory.

Paul finds that being a martyr for his cause is less straightforward than he supposed, largely as he's young, lacking experience and confidence, and is still too eager to please. Paul's tale is just one strand of a story in which people are trying to do the right thing while it's still unclear what the right thing actually is. His cousin, Grace, when not trying to find homes for refugee Jewish children, is herself struggling with the pressures of ­falling in love with a German man.

Wars are tests of character, and here Hardach shows these trials can take place far from the front lines. In ­fairness, the characters, though well drawn, are unlikely to take a place among anyone's literary favourites. But the moral choices facing them in this story of families, love, faith and growing up make us care enough about their dilemmas to keep us reading.