In Brief: A sturdy attempt to portray two mid-teenagers looking after themselves during the war; slightly dated style; no immodesty
Published in: 1969
Age Range: Pre Teens+
15-year-old Bill is evacuated to Wales away from the grudging aunt with whom he lives. He finds his way back to London and is living rough when he meets Julie who is in a similar situation, having jumped ship before her evacuation boat left Southampton for Canada. They get by doing odd jobs and helping stall-holders in the market until they come across an abandoned child who falls ill.
This book was very popular with teachers in the 1970s and I can see why, reading it today. By modern-day standards the style is a little dated but it still paints the picture quite convincingly and with enough details to make you believe the characters' decisions.
One of the reasons that this book appears dated is that, despite the fact that the two main characters are 15 years old, there is no outward display of sexual tension, a state of affairs virtually unheard of in a book written nowadays for a similar audience. On one occasion, because of the cold, Julie and Bill sleep together fully clothed but without incident.
But after the days we had just lived through, all drawbacks, all brief stabs of fear, were outweighed by a row of chestnuts roasting on the bars of our fire, and the feeling of wealth that having things that wouldn't go in a rucksack gave us. It was absurd, really, when the house above was in such a complete ruin, that all the things for cleaning and house-keeping in it were still safely stored away downstairs, but we found everything we needed.
She looked too. Below us the water of the river was a sheet of orange and gold. The eastern sky, as in a monstrous sunrise, was an expanse of limpid golden light, as though the sky itself was a wall of fire. Against it we could see the slender spires of Wren's churches, and the great dome of St Paul's. They were not mere silhouettes; the corners, the columns, the curve of the dome had been traced in lines of reflected light, as though they had been drawn with a pencil of flame. London was burning. It was all on fire. The immensity of it quenched my own fear in a wave of awe; it seemed like the end of the world
Tuesday 1st January 2002