Today’s book review, of a coming-of-age historical novel, is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey. If you’d like your book reviewed or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.
Synopsis: As grown-ups worry about war emerging in Europe, Billy’s war is just beginning. He so wanted a playmate but when he is introduced to his manipulative cousin, the frail and artistic Kenneth, Billy’s South London world becomes threatening. The adults only see the porcelain looks of Kenneth and not his darker soul. For Billy, his cousin is more fearsome than fun.
Emotionally neglected by parents, bullied by uncle and psychologically abused by cousin, Billy takes to imagining he owns the precious Cossack sabre of his father’s work colleague. Mr Durban values sturdy and well-meaning Billy, the son he never had. His daughter, Angela, is also a safe and welcome friend. She secretly shows Billy the sabre and much later he learns of its near mythical background from Mr Durban. Its story of power and influence impresses and engages Billy’s imagination. It becomes an icon sustaining him through Kenneth’s invasions, through separation from his family and then the shock of war.
As well as hardships, evacuation brings some significant emotional advantages, the unpretentious billet providing Billy with people who value his good nature.
Returning home for Christmas he finds his home comforts further threatened by Kenneth. By the summer, the war itself comes frighteningly personal as Billy sees its effects first-hand. Then bombing in London panics the family into a rapid departure. Kenneth’s nerves demand the best billeting, but can Billy rise above a further separation?
This novel is available via http://www.amazon.com/INTRUSION-boyhood-rivalry-Relative-Invasion-ebook/dp/B00NW97US6 and http://www.amazon.co.uk/INTRUSION-boyhood-rivalry-Relative-Invasion-ebook/dp/B00NW97US6.
Review (of eBook using the text-to-speech function)
This book starts in 1937, on the day the Duke and Duchess of Windsor met Hitler. The main character, Billy, is an engaging boy, dominated by his mother, which makes him all the more innocent (calling the Nazis ‘Nasties’ and misunderstanding his father’s ‘name’)… and appealing. He’s waiting for his cousin Kenneth but it’s soon revealed what a nasty boy Kenneth is. A visit to a family friend’s house, the Durbans, introduces us to Angela, and Billy to the sabre. He thinks of it every time he’s having it tough, which thanks to most of the people around him is often, and it proves to be a source of comfort.
We then follow Billy on the ups and downs that affect him, his family and the country over the next few years, and the ending not only brought a smile to his face but also to mine.
During the novel, Billy ages from four to eight and it’s an interesting journey for both him and the reader.
It’s an educational story made more so with chapter headings followed by dates and real-time events.
Apart from confusion at the mention of Bonmarché (which has been a UK chain since 1982 as well as the US-based http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bon_Marché and Parisian http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Bon_Marché) which I think would cause confusion to other readers aware of the UK version, I didn’t come across any errors and the writing feels very ‘tight’ with great phrases inc. ‘Mother’s mouth moved into something like a smile, only not as nice.’ ‘He shut the front door, leaving the dark outside with the empty bottles.’
Names were realistic and, apart from Alan, Angela and Annie, but they are different enough from each other to not be confused (although I’d always recommend not having characters with the same first initial). There’s also a Jillian, but Billy (William) thinks about the similarities of their name, wishing that the common phrase wasn’t Silly Billy, but that’s a feature of the novel rather than an author oversight.
Billy’s so endearing that even though this isn’t my normal reading genre, I couldn’t help but like it.
Most books have unnecessary adverbs but the only one that leapt out at me was a few ‘firmly’s e.g. ‘his hand firmly grasping’ where grasping would be enough) but not enough to lose a point over so…
Rating: 5 out of 5
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, Chair of NWG (which runs the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition and creative writing tutor for her local county council. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page). She also recently created five online writing groups and an interview-only blog.
Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has six others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-mine/short-stories.
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If you would like to send me a book review of another author’s books or like your book reviewed (short stories, contemporary crime / women’s novels or writing guides), see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog. And I post writing exercises every weekday on four online writing groups.