Ronnie Warren is a boy when the Second World War breaks out. By the time VE day comes around he’s a young man. Bernard Ashley’s novel gives us four snapshots of Ronnie’s life at various points throughout the war. In “Blitzkrieg” he and his family face danger in the bombing. In “The Bunk Boy” he’s an evacuee trying to adjust to a new environment. In “The American Captain” he struggles with first love and his mother’s new friendships. Finally, in “Man of the House”, Ronnie celebrates VE day.
Ashley is an excellent writer and this is an interesting portrait of a young man in his formative years, which happen to occur against the backdrop of war. Due to the style of the novel, essentially as four short stories with time lapses in between, it’s slightly difficult to become emotionally involved. At times, just as you’re becoming engrossed, the story jumps forward in time. It feels more like a portrait of a time, place and person. As such, it will be interesting to any child wanting to learn more about the time period and to get a sense of what it was like to grow up then. My only real criticism would be that Ronnie often resolves his problems by fighting, and it would have been nice if there had been more emphasis on peaceful resolution. However, this is a novel about war and Ronnie only fights for justice, so essentially he is representing the stance of Great Britain in the war; it makes sense to have his personal battles resolved in a way that reflects the wider theme.