Friday, 20 March 2015

After the Bombing by Clare Morrall

Clare Morrall is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. Her latest book, After the Bombing, offers a refreshing view of the impact of the Second World War on ordinary lives in England. The bombing in question happens in Exeter in 1942.

Alma Braithwaite is at her boarding school when she and her fellow students are chivvied off in their nighties to an air-raid shelter to wait for the all-clear. When the raid is over her school is in ruins, and her parents, doctors working at the local hospital, are both dead.

Tracking forward twenty odd years we find Alma still living in her parents’ house, working as music teacher at her old school and, until recently, alongside her old headmistress who has died suddenly. In comes replacement headmistress, Wilhemena Yates, a new broom but with her own wartime bombing tragedy. She and Alma are set to clash horns.

Meanwhile, Pippa Gunner arrives in Alma’s form class and memories of the war come flooding back. Pippa's father, Robert, is the same Mr Gunner who as a young lecturer in charge of a student hostel took in Alma and her three best friends while their school was being rebuilt.

The novel captures two interesting periods of history and finishes with one cataclysmic event where history and personal lives collide.  But as always with a Clare Morrall novel, it is the characters and their curious quirks of personality that create so much of the drama. The tragedy of the past is balanced with music, humour and dancing. This is a charming and thought provoking novel from a talented writer.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: After the bombing

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