Review Blog

Jun 06 2011

Vinnie's war by David McRobbie

cover image

Allen and Unwin 2011. ISBN 978 1742375762.
I highly recommend Vinnie's war as it is an excellent historical fiction novel for readers from about 11 onwards. Dealing with the evacuation of children to English country towns before the Second World War Blitz, the story has a similar feel to Magorian's Goodnight Mr. Tom, without the harsher theme.
Vinnie, an orphan who has struggled to live a happy existence in London, finds himself sent to the village of Netterfold and on the train finds new friends of a similar age in Dob and Kathleen and the latter's younger brother Joey.
Resilience is a theme which continues throughout the tale and I warmed to the characters who display courage and stoicism dealing with bereavement, homesickness, bullying and starting afresh in a strange environment. The various escapades and plots are realistic and wholesome, with the result being a well crafted narrative which rings true. Indeed I imagine that elderly folk who lived in these times would approve of and enjoy McRobbie's work.
The characters discover that hardships may be overcome and conflict can be resolved, with friends being found in former opponents. I particularly appreciated that Vinnie discovers that despite having a miserable childhood as an orphan, he could move on, to experience a fulfilling life. Assisted by kind people who take interest in his welfare, the child finds happiness and I feel that this is theme which is applicable to (and may resonate with) young people in modern times.
McRobbie includes an insightful afterward in which he explains many of the historical events and factors such as rationing, billeting and bomb shelters. This is based upon the author's own experiences as a 'Vaccie' or evacuated child. I could not help thinking that this useful inclusion would have been better placed as a prologue, to assist modern children who may have little or no knowledge of the historical context.
Rob Welsh

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