Tuesday 19 May 2020

Finishing book five

I have now completed the first draft of the fifth book in the cycle. This brings us closer to the German girls who wrote the letters that sparked off the whole project.  The girls are now very heavily fictionalised. 

I have used just four characters:

  • The feisty Anika who becomes an actor
  • Erika, one of the twins who has to run her father’s factory after he dies suddenly.  Her twin also features in the novel but is a minor character.
  • Gerda, who becomes a farmer
  • Hanna Braun, the girls’ former teacher.

The novel spans nine years and the girls grow up a lot in that time. Of course they are touched by the war. Each girl finds a strategy for coping. They enjoy some camaraderie each in their own area. The round robin letter is also a point of connection. They develop a strong sense of duty. They have to learn some painful truths about what has happened to some people they know: Renate, Elfriede Kaiser, Sister Kuna and Father Maxfeld. Hanna Braun carries the burden of knowing and of realising all of that and of being aware of what the Nazi regime is doing to education. .

The novel is running at 101,000 words at the moment. Will it get shorter as I edit? 

The girls are thirteen at the beginning and twenty-two by the end.  They live in a completely different world from their twenty-first century counterparts. Is this novel suitable for young adults?  Young adults could certainly understand it and digest it. They might not read it for pleasure. It could certainly also be suitable for adults. 

One review for The House on Schellberg Street mentioned that readers more often hope for escapism and entertainment in their reading. This is a fair comment. The type of text I’m producing here then will always remain on the back foot. However, I hope the books in the cycle will do two things: show there is some hope as they all end on an optimistic note and offer some explanation as to how it all might have happened. 

Ah well, on to the redrafting.           

Sunday 17 May 2020

Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden

This was actually written 1973, so in fact when the war was becoming history. It is a story about relationships, superstition and guilt as much as it is about the war. 

Nevertheless it gives us several useful insights about what it was like for children who were evacuated. 

Carrie and younger brother Nick are subjected to a harsh regime when they stay with Mr Evans and his younger sister whom they call Auntie Lou. It isn’t all harsh though; the children are well fed and Auntie Loo is kind to them. 

The children are taught in the village hall. A friend of theirs, Albert Sandwich is evacuated with Hepzibah, who may be a witch, and Mr Johnny the disabled relation of her employee, Mr Evans’ other sister Dilys. Albert misses the educational stimulus of having a large municipal library nearby.
It is awkward when Carrie’s mother comes to visit. They don’t know what to say to her. 

Auntie Lou elopes with an American soldier. There is an American presence on the edge of this story.
It is short book, with short chapters so easy for a young person to read. There are some complex issues in it so it will also be of interest to adults.