Reviewed by Gail McDonald
This was an easy read but with a great story line of love, loss and resilience, written in an engaging and entertaining style and based on actual historical event.
The story has a dual setting, one in London in 1940 during the World War II and the German air raids on the city and the other in New Zealand 2005.
We are first introduced to Ruth who is a young school teacher in London who volunteers to escort children being evacuated from London to Australia and New Zealand. The voyage, during which she is in charge of a group of young boys whose families have decided to relocate the children for their safety, takes a whole three months at sea. Their journey is not easy and many of the children are homesick and scared.
Ruth becomes quite attached to a nine-year-old boy, Fergus, who also has a sister on the voyage. Fergus finds it very difficult to adjust to the thought that he and his sister are being relocated and moved away from their parents. Fergus also becomes attached to Bobby who is another escort who takes Fergus under his wing.
The boat arrives in Sydney and discharges some of the children. Fergus and his sister are collected by their host family and head off for the new life in Australia. The remainder continue further on to Wellington in New Zealand.
Within days of arriving in New Zealand, the escorts board another boat, the Rangitane, to return to England but the Rangitane is attacked by German raiders. Some of the passengers on board are killed and the surviving passengers are taken as prisoners of war aboard the German vessel.
In 2005, Hazel, who is Fergus’ granddaughter, boards a plane in New Zealand heading to London to start an adventure exploring Europe.
On the journey Hazel sits next to Joe and in her possession is a book given to her by her grandfather Fergus to read on the plane. As she delves into the novel is becomes apparent that the character in the book, Fergus, is her grandfather who had been one of the children who were relocated to Australia. Her grandfather has never talked about how he relocated from London during the war as a child and ended up in New Zealand.
Joe and Hazel chat over the long journey to London with both reading the book and discussing how it all happened. How did the story of the story of the children being escorted from England get to be in a book and what became of Ruth and the other escorts?
The telling of the saga is handled very well by the author, engaging the reader until the end.
The author, Olivia Spooner, was originally pharmacist who lived and worked in Auckland, Wellington and London. For the past 15 years she has pursued her passion for writing and as the owner of an independent book store called The Booklover, she can indulge in her passion for reading and writing. Her interest in writing this book was piqued by reading a story about the sinking of the Rangitane.
The Girl from London
by Olivia Spooner
ISBN 978 186971 512 0