by Ditta | 2/17/2014
" For some time now I do carework for the elderly in the UK. People in their late 80's or even 90's, whose young years play out on the pages of this book. Often they relate to me their war-time experiences, in fact it seems, that - very understandibly - those years left the deepest marks on their lives. It struck me as strange, or weird even, that some of them spoke with quite some relish about the war years (just like Polly does in the novel). Reading this book (haven't finished yet) helps me to understand them on a deeper level. Some reviewers complain here, that the characters are rather flat and mono-dimensional. Strangely, to me this rather well expresses their real complexity. Older generations British people can appear rather one sided, but if you spend time with them, you can sense the depth of - probably not conscious or not expressed - layers of their personalities. Very often you can just do guess work, or if you operate on a more emotional/intuitive level, sense them somehow. The way they talk, their gestures, their vibes when they recall their past, or just the way they exist today gives a lot or clues.
There is one thing that I did definitely sense with my clients as well as with the characters moving about on the pages of this book: there is a profound sense of perplexity, a very curious mixture of shame and pleasure. Just imagine the state of mind at the time of the most terrible war of modern Europe: you are in the middle of it, people are dying left, right and centre, including your beloved ones, yet you can't help feeling that this is the time of your life... There is party after party, sex is oozing from the walls together with death, if you are a young woman for instance, you are suddenly out of the confines of your probably strict family and/or school, and from a girl waiting to be married, you fast as lightening evolve into someone with an often vitally important role for your country in war.A client or mine, who comes from a rather poor family, became one of the very few first women to operate the radars for the RAF. She was in her late teens, just out of a boarding school (where she won a grant and probably mostly learnt home economics, etc.) and all of a sudden she was operating radars, then very soon teaching male officers, decades her seniors, the science of radar detection. On the other hand, she recalls her feelings of being instrumental in killing people. One moment her face lights up with thrill, the other moment in terror and there is no way to separate these feelings, really, in the complexity of the experience. And of course this is 50+ years later. I can very well imagine that in those times this all was just too much to deal with, to intricate to go into detail, so you just focused on surviving in a raw and seemingly unsophisticated manner. The book reads very realistic to me on the basis of my experience with member of the war generation. "