Agnes’ non-fiction pick.
Susan Kennaway’s memoir is about a group often forgotten about in World War II literature – the child evacuees.
Growing up in Watford, England, Susie and her sister Gyll have a nanny to look after them, and while they don’t really want for anything material, it is very much a case of “children should be seen and not heard”.
After the outbreak of war, the girls are taken to Africa by their mother and left there to live with their pious aunt and the family she works for, none of whom they have met before. The ‘Happy Valley” set, this is not. Their presence is not welcome and they are very much the Cinderellas of the household. They have to be in bed by 6pm and are forced to take disgusting medicines every week. They have no life there and don’t seem to have been encouraged to enjoy the experience of living in Africa.
Correspondence from home dwindles to nothing and when the girls eventually return home, no-one is there to meet them. They learn that their mother is helping the Polish army and Daddy has installed a new woman in their house.
The girls are packed off to boarding school, conveniently distanced as petrol is still being rationed. There they are again subjected to humiliation and abuse and no- one seems to care.
Stoic Kennaway writes with an occasional dry wit and the book is an easy and interesting read.