Blitz by Robert Westall

This is the shortest fiction book I’ve ever read, weighing in at just shy of eighty pages with larger-than-usual print to boot. But, there’s nothing wrong with that, is there? It’s quality we’re after, rather than quantity, and on the former Blitz delivers.

Robert Westall lived during the Second World War and has written many works of fiction based on his first-hand experience. His fiction is primarily aimed at children, but if this one’s anything to go by, his writing is serious enough to captivate an adult readership.

What we have here is a small collection of four stories about British childhood during the Blitz. The first, “The Ruined City of Kor,” is about two boys who get trapped outdoors during an air-raid and end up investigating a plane-crash. Next in line is “The Thing Upstairs,” about a girl whose father has gone to war and whose mother appears to be going slowly insane. Thirdly, “Operation Cromwell.” This one’s my favourite. It’s the funniest of the bunch. The theme is the problems encountered in black market smuggling during war-time, and the product is, of all things, butter. The fourth tale is called simply “Rosie” and is about a very strange kind of air-raid shelter.

My only disappointment with this book was that none of the stories pack any real surprises in their conclusions. However, they are very entertaining, and at the same time provide children with a vivid picture of what it must have been like to live through the Second World War. I could see a child finding war-time history lessons much more interesting as a result of reading this.