Prunes for Breakfast by John Searancke

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Prunes for Breakfast by John Searancke

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A lightly-fictionalised look at the lot of the soldier in World War Two. It's written on the basis of - and including - letters from the author's father to his wife. Recommended. John Searancke popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: November 2015
Publisher: Matador
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1784625054

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Edward Searancke was called up to serve his country in 1940, not long after the outbreak of the Second World War and we hear his story from initial call-up, through the years of preparation for the invasion of France, to his eventual release as a Prisoner of War and return home to attempt to pick up the pieces of everyday life. It's a delightful mixture of the mundane (the difficulties of getting dry clothing, problems with his feet) and the dramatic (being surrounded and captured in an orchard in Northern France and his life as a prisoner of war) and much of the story is told through the genuine letters from Searancke to his wife which were handed to his son after his father's death. John Searancke tells us the story of his father's war.

Stories about WWII usually concentrate on the bigger picture: the battles which changed the course of the war, the blitz and bombing raids on Germany. The lot of the common man - or soldier - is usually only mentioned in terms of rationing or the effect of air raids. Prunes for Breakfast tells the story of one man's war and how he felt about what was happening to him. Edward Searancke approached the war much as I suspect he approached his life - determined to get the best out of it and prepared to work hard to do so - and rose from Private to Captain in the course of four years.

He was reluctant to tell his wife about the horrors of the war in France but he's very open about the frustrations of the early days with their lack of organisation and petty regulations. He does concentrate on his own woes or small triumphs as is natural in private correspondence. The letters are not about great things, but the mundanities of living and his son's skill as an author is shown by the way in which his father's voice in the letters follows through into the accompanying narrative. The story is lightly fictionalised - but it's very difficult to see the joins.

Although the story concentrates on the personal it gives an excellent insight into the planning of the war. On a large scale, much of Searancke's army service from the time he joined up was training for an invasion which wouldn't happen until June 1944 - even Searancke began to wonder about the number of courses he was being sent on! On a personal level he demonstrates the thought that went into supplying a soldier's kit for the invasion of Normandy and the way that the vehicles had to be prepared for the landing. The army postal service in France - on battlefields - seemed more efficient than today's Royal Mail and there was even a mobile bath unit for the men. Most startling was the demonstration of the difficulties of infantry and tanks fighting on the same ground and the problems which could arise. The telling is cleverly done - this wouldn't be my natural reading matter, but I was fascinated. War always has an effect on personal relationships and the strain on Searancke's marriage was obvious, along with his detachment from his young son and his physical development.

I began reading Prunes for Breakfast with interest, but found myself more and more drawn into the story, which was a real pleasure to read. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For a look at the war from the point of view of a German soldier we can recommend Wolfram: The Boy Who Went To War by Giles Milton.

Bookinterviews.jpg John Searancke was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.

Buy Prunes for Breakfast by John Searancke at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Prunes for Breakfast by John Searancke at

Buy Prunes for Breakfast by John Searancke at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Prunes for Breakfast by John Searancke at


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