Meeting in England

The memorial for Norwegian wartime sailors at Stavern, Norway
We'll meet in England was going to be included as part of last year's re-read challenge. I didn't get around to it so it's become a useful addition to the 666 Challenge instead. I first read this childrens' novel when I was at school, and enjoyed it immensely. 30 years on, I still enjoy it although I'm sure that a good dose of nostalgia probably contributed to this.

The story, written in 1942, tells how two Norwegian children escape from Nazi-occupied Norway and sail to England evading Nazis en route and rescuing castaway airmen. It's a fun adventure story with some decent characterisation of the children. The best writing is reserved for the scenes that take place at sea. I suspect that Kitty Barne, the author, was probably a keen sailor as the sea-crossing has a real vitality to it.

Kitty Barne also worked extensively during the war with child evacuees, and her sympathy for children and their plight in war torn Europe is clear. It is not however altogether a comfortable read. Writing in 1942 Barne was well aware of what life was like living in a country which was coming under regular nightly bombardment from Nazi forces. She was also sympathetic and had some understanding of what the Nazis were doing in Europe; concentration camps, for instance, are mentioned. She however could have had no comprehension of the true impact of Nazism on Europe so even the mention of concentration camps is treated in quite a light-hearted way. And although there are occasional comments about worries Rudy and Hertha (the two children at the centre of the story) have about family left behind in Norway, this is generally treated as not that important.

It's a strangely innocent tale, and I suspect might have been written quite differently if it had been written in 1945 rather than 1942. So, an enjoyable tale, but an odd contrast to other books set in wartime such as Ian Serraillier's Silver Sword or Johanna Reiss' The Upstairs Room.


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