Sandy Taylor returns to the blog today with another historic fiction, this one narrated by a teenage girl during World War II.
The Runaway Children
Starting in London’s East End in the Bermonsea district, we meet Nell, Tony and Olive as they wait for their mother to give birth to a new sibling. It’s 1942 and bombs are ravaging the city and countryside, and as of this moment, the children have avoided being part of Operation Pied Piper – the evacuation of London’s children to the countryside to live in a more secure area with plans to return home after the war. With a father away fighting and air raids and poverty ever-present, it is decided that the three children shall evacuate and their mother will stay back with the newest addition to the family. Promises made to reunite as soon as feasible, Nell, Olive and Tony head off to places unknown until Tony, unwilling to leave the city or his mother, jumps off the train as it leaves the station. Seemingly endless hours later, Nell and Olive arrive in a completely new and totally foreign environment: Wales. With unfamiliar language in the air, trees, green and sheep unlike the ‘fluffy white balls of wool that they know from storybooks, the girls are unsettled. Taken in by the Methodist vicar and his wife – the girls are treated to al’ sorts of new experiences: a large bed, plenty of food, no air-raid sirens, and above all, kindness. They are thriving and growing strong – but Nell’s worry for her mother and brothers won’t lessen.
Just as they are both settled in and after a wonderful Christmas unlike any other, the Vicar has been relocated to Cardiff where the church feel his services are needed – the frequent bombings of the docks and city mean the girls can’t go along – and the rehousing official finds them a place on a farm some 20 miles from the little town they have come to love and view as home. Far from an ideal situation, when Nell’s protection of Olive leads to a confrontation, the girls run away for London – expecting to be joined by their new friend at the farm, Jimmy. When Jimmy doesn’t appear – the long walk to London is full of peril as Nell, determined to keep young Olive (now 7) safe , has her moving forward to the point of exhaustion. With help (and care) from an elderly widower, the girls are sheltered and cared for until a train ride back to London leads them home again.
Of course, the ensuing year has ravaged London even further, and the East End and docks are heaviest hit. While no one knows of her mother, brothers or father – there are neighbors who take the girls in, and plan to relocate to the coast, leaving word for her mother with a neighbor who is determined to stay settled in Bermonsea.
Throughout the story, Nell’s own determination keeps her and Olive safe, yet their final landing point at a guesthouse becomes the place where both can shine and grow. Each new place of acceptance allows Nell and Olive to grow and find friends, opportunities and new ways of looking at the world. As Nell realizes that her East End upbringing didn’t let her see the possible options for her life, she’s grown and learned about love, life, family and the possibility of hope even in the darkest times.
Perfectly charming – the story has moments of tension, humor (Olive is a total hoot), tears and joy as the seemingly impossible in the midst of war, loss and trial, become possible as Nell’s voice, determination and hope carry her journey forward for herself and Olive. A lovely book from Taylor and a perfect introduction to her writing.
Title: The Runaway Children
Author: Sandy Taylor
Genre: Historic Woman's Fiction, Historical Fiction, Setting: Britain, Setting: Wales, World War II
Published by: Bookouture
Published on: 8 December, 2017
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 11 Hours: 25 minutes
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An unforgettable journey of two evacuee sisters during the Second World War – and their determination to stay together, no matter what.
London, 1942: Thirteen-year-old Nell and five-year-old Olive are being sent away from home to escape the devastation of the East End during the Blitz. Leaving behind their beloved mother and brothers, they don’t know if they will ever see them again.
As the sisters adjust to their new life in a close-knit Welsh village, they gradually find hope in the friendships they make. And Nell kindles a special bond with fellow evacuee Jimmy, who makes her smile even at the hardest of times.
But when little Olive’s safety is threatened, Nell makes a decision that will change their lives forever. They must run from danger and find their way home…
Together, through tears and laughter, the two sisters hold each other’s hands as they make an incredibly brave journey across war-torn England. Will they be reunited with the family they have missed for so many years? Or is there more heartache to come?
A moving story of unconditional love, friendship and the fight for survival during a time of unimaginable change. This book is guaranteed to find a place in your heart. Perfect for fans of Orphan Train and The Girl With No Name.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.