Welcome to the newest slot on my blog, the Sunday night Novel Nights In, where I bring you guests’ novels in their entirety over a maximum of ten weeks.
And now I’ve added Saturday nights with the serialisation of my chick lit novel The Serial Dater’s Shopping List!
Tonight’s is ‘Coming Up For Air’, the first in this series and features part one of this novel by literary author, poet and interviewee Rose Mary Boehm.
For shorter pieces I would run the story then talk more about it afterwards but because this is a longer post (10,006 words), here is an introduction to Rose then a little about her novel before it begins…
Rose Mary Boehm
A German-born UK national, Rose Mary Boehm now lives and works in Lima, Peru. Two novels (‘Coming Up For Air’ and the follow-up ‘The Telling’) have been published in the UK, as well as a poetry collection (‘Tangents’).
Her latest poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in US poetry reviews. Among others: Toe Good Poetry, Poetry Breakfast, Burning Word, Muddy River Review, Pale Horse Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Other Rooms, Requiem Magazine, Full of Crow, Poetry Quarterly, Punchnel’s, Verse Wisconsin, Naugatuck Poetry Review (contest semi-finalist), Avatar…
Her poem ‘Miss Worthington’ won third price in the coveted Margaret Reid Poetry Contest: http://winningwriters.com/contests/margaret/2009/ma09_epaminondas.php. You can find out more about Rose and her writing at her blog: http://houseboathouse.blogspot.com.
Coming Up For Air
A young girl’s struggle to take control of her life
What did readers have to say about it? In Amazon most gave it five (5) stars – these reviews can be read online in their entirety: http://www.amazon.com/Coming-Air-Rose-Mary-Boehm/product-reviews/1907407073
- “A wonderful surprise. Looking forward to reading it again.”
- “Rose Mary Boehm is an exquisite writer […] Take a look at life through the eyes of young Annemarie Becker, […] gain access to a piece of history unknown for some, distant for many and enlightening for all.”
- “This is the story of Anne Marie Becker who grew up during World War II. She was only two-years-old when the bombs started falling. As the author states, part of this novel is fiction, part fact and part autobiographical. In any case, Coming Up For Air is a hard book to put down.”
- “This tale took me to a place in history I had never seen before, with eyes of a child. I had a hard time putting it down. It was fast moving […]”
You can read other reviews at Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7957702-coming-up-for-air.
You can also view her book trailer on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cg7zN8kNaO4.
If you don’t want to wait the 10 weeks for the whole story, you can purchase Coming Up for Air at Amazon.com (just $2.95) Amazon.co.uk (only £1.87). The rest of the ‘adventures of Annie’ can be read in THE TELLING.
When, in the 70s, in London, young friends of mine asked me about ‘my side of the story’, I wasn’t sure where to start, whether I had one (a story to tell), or whether I actually wanted to talk about it. When I began the dig, I found memory fragments rather than a story, and I found a small voice. I decided to ‘start at the very beginning’. The novel you are about to read is the result. I wrote it in three parts:
- Book I (Another Kind of Childhood) is unashamedly autobiographical
- Book II (The Unbearable Burden of Sex) consists of my tales and tales from friends
- Book III (Spitting against the Wind) is pure invention.
Some characters in the novel are based on real people, others are blends of people I’ve known; events, places, dates and time I shifted at will, and all names of the protagonists are fictitious.
I have tried to convey a time of love, fear, solidarity, bewilderment, pain, hypocrisy, fun, hope, friendship, optimism, promises and expectations. But, more than that, I intended to show today’s young adults that there is nothing new under the sun, and that we can free ourselves from repeating errors (quite a few of which are born from the many confusing messages life imparts) in our reactions to our world.
Be patient, gentle reader, the voice of the small child who understands very little grows up during the story into someone who begins to understand even less.
Book I: Another Kind of Childhood
Mother carries me down to the shelter and I feel safe. I sit on her arm, and she holds me close. I clutch her neck with my arms and know everything is alright.
Father carries me down. He doesn’t sit me on his arm: he wraps me into a blanket and presses me tightly to his chest. I slowly slip down through the blanket.
Already in World War I, the Rhine-Ruhr area was a prime target for Britain and France, who even then planned air attacks on its industrial cities.
In World War II, the Rhine-Ruhr power stations and coking plants topped the list of targets for the British strategic air war against Germany. The Rhine-Ruhr industrial region was the ‘Armory of the Third Reich’, where the industrial giants of their time manufactured the components for Hitler’s tanks, aircrafts, submarines, cannons, etc.
In May 1940, British Bomber Command opened the strategic air war against Germany, and night after night British bombers took off in the direction of the industries of the Ruhr.
Following the German air attacks on British cities in the autumn of 1940 and the spring of 1941 which had caused around 40,000 deaths in London alone, the British Air Ministry and the War Cabinet decided in favour of air attacks on important German industrial cities such as Cologne, Düsseldorf, Duisburg, Essen and Hamburg. The Unison plan envisaged strategic air raids on the populated areas in various industrial cities.
I must have been about two-and-a-half or three years old when the bombers began to come with ever increasing frequency.
For me, there existed no history, no guilt, no hate, no understanding. All I knew was my life between ‘upstairs’ and ‘downstairs’, and the sound of the district siren screaming from the schoolhouse opposite our house, paralysing me with fear. I knew that night meant danger and that this piercing sound, accompanied by the staccato of the anti-aircraft guns, would inevitably be followed by the low hum of overhead bombers and then the ear-splitting explosions which shattered windows and doors, shook walls and made me want to curl up into a ball.
The ‘shelters’ were the cellars of the buildings in which we lived. As soon as the air-raid siren started its deafening warning, Mother, Father, my brother and I would hurry downstairs to the shelter. But not without my dolls. I was the ‘mother’ of a collection of motley down-and-outs. One had a hole in its celluloid head and its hand was mangled. I used to chew the celluloid fingers.
In November 1944, the US Secretary of War ordered the US Strategic Bombing Survey, one of the last directives coming from the late President Roosevelt who had always believed that an impartial and expert study of the effects of American aerial attacks on Germany would allow the Americans not only to evaluate the potential of air power as an instrument of military strategy, but also help plan the future development of the United States armed forces, while determining future economic policies with respect to the cost of national defence and, as expected, the report’s major conclusion was that strategic bombing, particularly the destruction of the German oil industry and truck manufacturing, contributed tremendously to Allied successes in World War II.
Not that it is very important to those who are at the receiving end, but there is a distinction to be made between tactical and strategic bombing: strategic bombing missions seek to destroy a country’s industrial infrastructure, throwing in a few cities for good measure, while tactical bombing missions go for military targets such as airfields, ammunition dumps, command facilities, troop concentrations etc. Never before had the world seen strategic bombing as used in World War II. In some cases thousands of aircraft dropped tens of thousands of tonnes of munitions on a single city.
Between them, the Allies were able to bomb around the clock. During the day, the US Air Forces made precision raids against specific targets with their well-defended aircraft, while the less protected British bombers crossed into Germany under the cover of night and massed over the cities by the hundreds.
I am small. Everyone else is very tall. The big ones take care of me. They smile at me, hold me. Sometimes they sound angry and sometimes they sound frightened. Sometimes they make me laugh and I love them very much. One of the big people is Father, one is Mother, then there is my big brother. Father is the most beautiful and the strongest. He is not with us very often. On some evenings he comes into the room where I sleep.
The wallpaper by my bed is covered with little pink flowers that are connected by thin whirly lines. I always look at them before I sleep, and I have found out where one pattern ends and the same pattern begins. It has a rhythm. It never changes, it never ends. I like it. There is a secret spot where I can peel the thick paper off the wall. That feels almost as nice as peeling off a scab. But when Father stands by my bed and smiles at me, I forget about the pattern.
He makes me feel warm all over. Like my blanket. Soft and cosy. His eyes shine when he looks at me. I drown in that blue, blue, moist warm shine. I want to get close to him, smell him, touch him, feel the roughness of his suit, creep into his arms. I want to stay like this forever.