Sunday, September 23, 2018

Book Review: 'A Relative Invasion: The Prequel' by Rosalind Minett

‘If it hadn’t been for the openness of my home to Billy, none of it could have happened.’

British author Rosalind Minett began her career in the arts as a dancer - in RADA (for those outside the UK, The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) - but switched directions when she studied psychology at Birmingham, Sussex and Exeter universities and became a Psychologist. This combination of experience offers her the ability to crawl inside the psyches of her characters while creating a proscenium arch setting in intricate details for her chosen subject - whether writing comedy, historically influenced novels or crime tales - before enjoying a career as a chartered psychologist. She is successfully able to wear the twin masks of comedy/tragedy and still maintain a rather phenomenal sense of finding the humor in the worst of situations and the compensatory dark side of the best of incidents. She is a very fine writer!

While the bookshelves (and Kindle tablets) are filled with stories of WW II and the manner in which England survived that period of history, very few have explored the subject of the interplay of off island youngsters and people as they interacted in England during that horror - especially the little known (outside of England) fact of the evacuation of children and women to small villages outside of London during the blitz for safe keeping during the assault. Rosalind accomplishes just that in pairing cousins and the stress and eventual growth such situations permitted.

The immensely successful A RELATIVE INVASION TRILOGY still has life. Rosalind could not resist enhancing her treasure with a Prequel. In the Foreword to this very short novella she states, ‘A Relative Invasion is the story of a fateful rivalry that begins just as war is threatening over in Europe where Hitler is invading and infiltrating other countries. When Billy meets Kenneth, he experiences an invasion and infiltration of his own. Over the course of the trilogy, which traces how the onset, extent and outcomes of World War Two affect this family at home, it is the development of both boys and their rivalry that forms the focus of the story. Readers asked how this series of events came to be (even though, apart from historical events, they are entirely imaginary), why the adults acted as shown, what life was like before the boys met. This prequel goes some way to answering these questions. The trilogy itself is Billy’s story, or at least, the books are written from his point of view, but it is Kenneth’s story too by virtue of their relationship. For the story before they were born, I pass the responsibility over to the characters themselves, the older ones, who can each give a little of their background. They don’t have to worry about children overhearing them. How Billy and Kenneth would have loved to have been ‘in’ on this adult information! You may want to refer to the complete list of characters who appear in the three books, so I have put this first.’

Open the Prequel – ‘PETER DURBAN. So I am to speak first! I guess this is because the author reckons it’s me who, more than any of the Wilson family, sparked this story into existence. If so, I sincerely apologise. That won’t be for the first time. You can imagine how responsible I feel for the dreadful events of 1948 that so badly affected all of us; not just the two boys, but their parents, my wife and daughter, the grandparents… and myself, of course. I was a good friend of Bill’s father, Herbert Wilson, a trusty colleague whose work and general moral standing I always admired. However, I did feel that he was too remote from his son and failed to appreciate Billy’s fine virtues….etc. It I this degree of caring not only about history, the war, the characters but also the readers of her work that glows with caring from this extraordinary writer. Recommended. 

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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