This is a very simplistic children’s book, an undemanding comfort read about a world in which no-one thinks twice about three children going off in a caravan with a strange man (an acquaintance of their auntie), and they have a lovely, happy time … despite this being during the war, and one of the kids nearly drowning! There’s a spy story, there’s a romance (involving two adults, not one of the kids!), there are two glamorous film stars, there’s a retired trapeze artist, there are lots of locals with whom they pal up, and there’s a village fete. And there’s a sub-plot about years of debate over whether or not someone should, er, have their adenoids out. It all sounds a bit daft, and the main character’s twelve but acts as if she’s about eight, so it should have been annoying. But somehow it wasn’t: it made me smile!
Jane and her elder siblings Michael and Diana had their previous year’s holiday cancelled, not because of a pandemic but because of the Second World War. The war’s still going on, but they’re supposed to be going to the seaside anyway, until disaster strikes and their dad is injured in an accident – nothing serious, but enough to put the kibosh on the holiday. No-one seems very bothered that the poor old mum and dad will not now get a holiday, but a glamorous film star auntie arranges for an acquaintance of hers, who had to retire from the circus after a trapeze accident, to take the kids to the countryside in his caravan. So it’s actually a caravan for four. I’m not sure why being a retired trapeze artist should mean you’d have a caravan, but never mind.
They go to a village where they’ve stayed before, where their old nurse used to live, and soon get involved in village life, with Jane becoming very friendly with a girl called Eva – she of the adenoids. As well as the locals, there’s an American military base there, and, for some reason, Pamela, a young woman whose workplace has been evacuated from London, is lodging at the post office, and Rosa, a Polish woman who claims to be a film star is also hanging around. Pamela fancies Richard, the local doctor, but he fancies Rosa, whom Jane is convinced is a spy. Keep up!
Not that much actually happens. Jane nearly drowns and Pamela rescues her. There’s an lot about Eva having catarrh and needing to have her adenoids out. And everyone gets very involved in organising a “victory fete” – presumably to raise money for the war effort. I was assuming that it’d transpire that Rosa was perfectly innocent, but, no, she actually was a spy. A honey trap spy, no less – that’s something different for a children’s book! I don’t know why someone Polish would be spying for the Germans, but no-one seemed to think of that. Richard realises that he’s been very silly in going for the girl with the, er, obvious attractions, rather than Pamela who doesn’t have the same physical appeal but is very sweet and kind, and he and Pamela get together. Oh, and Eva has her adenoids out.
It’s a completely undemanding book. There are no moral lessons. OK, there’s a spy who gets her come-uppance, but everyone seems far more interested in the fact that she won’t be distracting Richard from Pamela any more than in any danger to national security. No-one is forced to see the error of their ways, except perhaps Richard realising that handsome is as handsome does. No-one goes around sneering at day trippers. People seem strangely unruffled by air raids. Having a spy in your midst is exciting, not frightening. It is OK, not rude or vulgar, to be interested in romance. And all’s well that ends well. Hurrah!
This is hardly a classic, but, as I said, it made me smile!