Thursday, 23 August 2007

A Memoir and a Tale from World War One

Finished August 23
Botswana Time by Will Randall
I've had this one beside my bed for a while, reading it slowly and savouring it. This memoir is by a British teacher about the time he spent teaching and living in Kasane, Botswana. As he becomes part of the community and engages both with the children and with the other teachers and parents, he also learns about Botwana. He has a great respect for the country and its people and that comes through strongly here. His affection for the children also comes through strongly, and he draws the personalities nicely. He also, of course, encounters the animals, sometimes happily, sometimes not so much, but always described with great humour. He is self-deprecating, but not dishonestly. I really enjoyed this book.

In the Dark by Deborah Moggach
This tale set in Southwark during World War II, is of a teenage boy and his mother, running a rooming house. The father has been killed in the war, and the two are struggling to make ends meet, especially after the rationing begins. The maid, Winnie, is from the country, and acts like an older sister to the boy, Ralph. The local butcher, Neville Turk, is attracted to the mother and woos her by "helping out", sending her nice cuts of meat, and arranging delivery of coal when they run low. This strategy works, and as he marries Eithne and moves into the house, he begins making changes, starting with the addition of electricity. Ralph rebels by becoming a vegetarian and befriends one of the tenants, who is blind. Winnie also befriends Alwyne, reading to him in the evening. As the war continues, Turk continues his plans for the property and shows little regard for others' feelings. Ralph continues his transition to adulthood and Alwyne turns out to be aware of more than others think. An interesting story, told with subtlety and humour.

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