It is the hot summer of 1940. The whole of England is tense, waiting for the German invasion. Children have been evacuated from cities, towns and villages along the East Coast and rumours are rife. Against this background twelve-year old Lydia has run away from her unpleasant evacuee home in Wales in order to get back to her home in the Fens to find her mother. Her adored elder brother, Alfie, has already become a victim of war, her father, a Naval officer, is away at sea.
Lydia arrives back in her village having taken the train to the nearest town. As she walks through the oppressive heat wearing her gas mask as she has been told to do, she finds no one in the fields and the whole village is deserted. She makes her way down the lane to her erstwhile home called Greyfriars, a large Edwardian house on the edge of the Fens, hoping that her mother may be there – but no. The house is dark and hot due to the blackout screens at every window but there are tins of food in the cupboard thanks to her mother`s foresight at the start of the war.
She has just managed to explore the house and her favourite attic when a man arrives, obviously wounded and wearing British uniform. He does not behave in a normal way, however and Lydia soon realises that he is a German. He tells her that his name is Heiden, he is the spearhead of the Invasion and that she must stay out of sight in the house, even threatening her with his gun. Over the ensuing few days, as they wait for the rest of Heiden`s group, we discover their thoughts, memories, the real reason for his presence in the house, and final destinies.
The book is a deep insight into the feelings of two very different characters – the seasoned German soldier and the maturing twelve year old girl. The story unfolds slowly so that the reader is exposed to unexpected twist and turns and unforeseen events. It is a thoroughly absorbing read and shows amazing insight on the part of the writer. All I can say is that this is an excellent first novel and I look forward to more from Jason.
Reviewed by Liz.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster for sending us a copy to review.