Friday, September 21, 2012

The Comfort of a Good Book

My mother was nine years old when she was evacuated from London to escape the bombs in World War Two. As the youngest of eight, Mum was sent away without her siblings. She was gone for four whole years during which time her father only visited a handful of times and her mother not at all. 

In those days, getting to Surrey from London—which now takes about an hour by train—was incredibly difficult. Apart from the fact that my grandfather fought on the Western Front in The Great War and was severely shell-shocked, neither of my grandparents could drive and besides, petrol was strictly rationed. 

During my trip to the UK this summer I was lucky enough to combine a book tour and spend time with my mother. The two of us traveled around England. It was a wonderful trip—especially when my daughter was able to join us for the odd weekend. Girls on tour! But most of all, it was the first time as an adult I could really question mum about her life as a wartime evacuee. 

She stayed with three different families—one woman, "Olive" was particularly unkind to her (mental note to self, potential murder victim) and Mum was incredibly lonely. My grandparents did not have a telephone and although they wrote to her, letters were slow in arriving. 

I asked Mum how she survived and she said by reading a book called "The Twins To The Rescue." 
 On returning to the USA I set out to track down a copy of that book and was thrilled when Abbey Antiquarian Books came up trumps. The wonders of the Internet!

The first thing I did was read the book myself.

Published around 1937, author Joyce Bruce tells the story of twins who are sent to stay with a distant relative in a manor house far away from home because their parents are going abroad for six months. It was easy to understand why the book struck such a chord for her.  

Abbey Antiquarian Books said they are "Purveyors of nostalgia." I began to think about the books I loved when I was age 9. Enid Blyton's "The Famous Five, Michael Bond's "Paddington Bear," and my all-time favorite, "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe," (oddly enough I only read that book at the time, not the others in the Chronicles of Narnia) by C.S. Lewis

I also started thinking about times when reading a book brought me great comfort during difficult times. Books have helped me escape from reality when I’ve suffered through many a broken heart, a divorce, bereavement, unbearable anxiety and just plain nerves whilst waiting to interview for a new job. But I’m sure none can equal the fear of a nine-year old sleeping in a strange bed so far from home over seventy years ago.
“The Twins to The Rescue” was published with Girl Guides in mind (at a cost of 3s 6d). Throughout the story the twins are governed by Girl Guide Law No.8.

“A Guide smiles and sings under all difficulties.”

And my darling Mum still smiles and sings under all difficulties to this day.