Jenny's War by Margaret Dickinson

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Jenny's War by Margaret Dickinson

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Susmita Chatto
Reviewed by Susmita Chatto
Summary: Jenny is a child from a troubled East End home. Although home isn't worth much, it's still a shock to be evacuated to the countryside as World War Two begins in earnest. But Jenny is about to experience much more than just a change of scene, as she meets people who can teach her more about love than her real home ever could.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: February 2012
Publisher: Pan
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0330544306

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Jenny's home life in the East End is an uncomfortable one. Her mother Dot cares little for her and thinks nothing of giving her a slap to make sure she knows her place. Dot's boyfriend, Arthur, tries to show Jenny some kindness but has issues of his own.

When Jenny is evacuated to Lincolnshire, she is initially terrified and unhappy, but after settling with a kind country family who are overjoyed to have children in their lives at long last, she begins to blossom. Even as a ten-year-old, she begins to recognise her feelings for one of the family, Georgie, as being very close to love. When she is asked to return to London, she is heartbroken.

But there's worse in store for Jenny. Arthur has turned his hand to the black market and his interest in Jenny now only relates to how useful she can be. Not only has Jenny's new life been rudely interrupted but she is now forced to take part in activities that grow more repugnant to her as she grows older.

My sympathy for Jenny waned quickly at the start of the book, largely because the ongoing drama of her distress at having to leave home was stretched out over several chapters. After that had passed, this quickly developed into a wholesome and comforting wartime tale with the family with which she was placed demonstrating the best of British in many ways.

Before it got too cosy, we were taken back to the East End and the new problems that Jenny faced. As she grows up, she becomes more of a likeable character and we see the best of her in newfound ambitions that Dot would dearly love to discourage.

Dot and Arthur are very well drawn as the resident unpleasant characters; it's also a good window into the myriad ways that could be found to abuse the trust that people showed in their countrymen during the war.

The gradual spread of war beyond the geographical boundaries that were predicted, and the way it affected personalities, young and old, is clearly portrayed. Dickinson has created a sense of place very well through a number of locations. The book begins at the start of the war and follows Jenny for the duration while giving us historical context throughout; the angle of a girl of that age going through the war is well explored.

As well as providing a solid story, the book brings to light interesting aspects of the war and weaves them cleverly into the telling of the tale. Overall this is an uplifting and escapist read which provides a real treat for anyone interested in the period but may also provoke interest amongst those who are not, as the subject matter is so sensitively treated.

If you enjoyed this book then you might enjoy Sing as We Go and Forgive and Forget also by Margaret Dickinson.

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