Friends and Enemies
This novel tells the story of Kathy Hammond, beginning in 1941 when she and her mother flee to an air raid shelter and only Kathy survives the blast that changes her life forever. Consumed by hatred for the enemy, she joins the Wrens. What she doesn’t realise, when she begins working under Commander Evans, is that there is more to it than just enemy versus enemy.
Matthews combines the tragedy of the Second World War and the comradeship of war with seeming effortless skill, reminding us that everyone who participated in the war had their own past to deal with. It was very interesting to learn about the Wrens and how the Royal Navy operated on land – both in the UK and overseas. Themes of revenge, forgiveness, friendship and love are approached well in this novel. The characters progress throughout the story, which is helpfully marked by the years when appropriate. It was also helpful to have major events of the War included, which puts the story into perspective. Overall, Matthews’ novel was at the same time thought-provoking and a well-paced read, focusing on what it really meant to be in World War Two and recognising that the ‘enemy’ are real people who also have wishes and dreams.