I read this on the strength of the author’s guest appearances on the wonderful ‘Backlisted’ podcast. I always enjoy her contributions so it seemed rude not to give her books a go. I don’t normally read this sort of thing, but was glad I overcame my prejudice towards a) popular fiction and b) popular fiction about the second world war. I never would have picked this up normally but was happy I did.
From the cover art and the ‘Keep calm and carry on’ title font, you could be forgiven for thinking this was a straightforward heart-warming WW2 yarn. Wrong. It’s not plucky Brits united against the dreadful Nazi foe. It’s everyone on the fiddle and doing their best to evade wartime regulations. Blackout blinds – pah. Obeying bullying wardens – nope. Pilfering, black marketeering, petty crime, taking in evacuees to boost your rations with no regard for their welfare – oh yes. How refreshing in an age when war-nostalgia is so prevalent (and spread by people who never lived through it of course). The narrative is of the ‘unlikely bond’ variety; brisk, spiky Vee and her precocious and odd evacuee Noel have no common ground and the development of their fragile up-and-down relationship is quietly moving.
Characterful, pacey, and evocative – top marks for an emotionally resonant page-turner, that presents the home front in a very different light, without sentimentality but still very funny in places, quite hard-hitting in others, and so well written.