What was England like during and after World War II for children? What must it have been like to come-of-age during a time of rationing and bombing? Anyone who has seen John Boorman’s film “Hope and Glory” realizes the power a child’s-eye view can provide in our understanding of a particular place and time.
I happen to love coming-of-age stories, and while there are a multitude of adult fiction depictions of this, there are also countless books written for children that do this just as well or better that, may I add, are worthy of consideration and discussion for book groups for adults.
The New York Review of Book reprinted Godden’s An Episode of Sparrows (the world reprint is like an aphrodisiac for a librarian!). Set in post-war London, where children’s playgrounds were the husks of bombed buildings, it tells the story of Lovejoy Mason, a girl who befriends a tough neighborhood boy, Tip. They plant a garden together and it brings some light to their grey world.
Jane Gardam’s A Long Way From Verona follows Jessica Vye who at 13 discovers she is detined to become a writer. Set during the war in rural England, when bombing and rationing were the norm, Jessica sets out to tell us about the year that changed everything for her.
Both of these books features winning protagonists, and their stories are told with a charming lack of sentimentality. They would be a good paired read, as well. Perhaps throw in J.G. Ballard’s Empire of the Sun for another WWII coming-of-age from a boy’s perspective of the war in China.