What’s it all about?:
It is the Second World War and Carrie and Nick are evacuated from London to a small town in Wales, where they are placed with strict Mr Evans and his timid mouse of a sister. Their friend Albert is luckier, living in Druid’s Bottom with Hepzibah Green who tells wonderful stories, and the strange Mister Johnny, who speaks a language all of his own.
What did I think?:
Carrie’s War was an absolute must for our Kid Lit challenge in 2016 as I was determined this was the year I was finally going to read it. What a surprise I got to find that I remembered certain parts of the book as I came across them – yes, I had already read it! Goodness knows when, but as I read it for the second time some sections felt very familiar and others very new. From the synopsis, you assume it’s going to be another one of those “war books,” involving children, similar to War Horse by Michael Morpurgo and The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne. In essence it is – it tells the story of Carrie and her little brother Nick and their new friend Albert Sandwich as they are all evacuated from London on the train to the countryside in Wales as it is presumed a safer place to be. To be honest, not a whole lot more is mentioned about the war so if you are hoping for gas masks, bombs dropping and horrific carnage, this is perhaps not the book for you.
Carrie’s War is a compelling read in a completely different way. It focuses on how Carrie and Nick settle into their new home with the religious and very strict Mr Evans and his quiet, fearful sister (who they quickly become comfortable with and call Auntie Lou). Carrie and Nick find it very difficult to please Mr Evans who insists on rules and behaving with the utmost decorum and find refuge with their friend Albert’s hosts who live in a magical place called Druid’s Bottom. This is actually the home of Mr Evans sister Mrs Gotobed, whom funnily enough is bed-bound, very ill and expected to die soon. Hepzibah Green, her maid, looks after her, runs the household, looks after the animals on the farm and takes care of Mister Johnny, a young boy who is unlike anyone Carrie and Nick have ever met before and although he frightens them initially, they soon develop a strong bond.
Hepzibah and Auntie Lou are provided as motherly figures that Carrie and Nick lack being evacuees and away from their own family. Almost immediately, it becomes a real treat to visit Druid’s Bottom to help out with the chores, eat amazing home-cooked food and hear Hepzibah’s stories. One in particular involves a skull that has an ancient and terrifying history and is of utmost importance to the story when an adult Carrie returns with her own children and reminisces about her time in the country and a “terrible thing she did.”
There are a lot of things in this novel to love. It was such an interesting reading experience for me as I remembered some things so clearly – like when the children first happen upon Mister Johnny while some things felt entirely new, like the children’s relationship with Mr Evans which goes to a completely different level when his sister, Mrs Gotobed passes away. I think it’s a brilliant story to read as an introduction to the Second World War and the variety and diversity of characters is very commendable and something I think children will enjoy. I especially loved Mister Johnny and his wonderful language all of his own (gobble, gobble) and although I felt a bit frustrated with Carrie at times, she emerged as a great heroine and role model. I’m already a big fan of Nina Bawden after her amazing book for adults The Ice House and I can’t wait to read more of her work, kid-lit or otherwise!
For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her blog HERE.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
Image from http://www.radiotimes.com/episode/jrvw9/carries-war
Carrie’s War was turned into a BBC adaptation starring Pauline Quirke as Hepzibah Green in 2004.