Rose in the Blitz

Written by Rebecca Stevens
Review by Jane Burke

Rebecca Stevens continues the adventures of her ‘Strange Girl’, Rose, in this sequel to Valentine Joe, set between the present day and war-torn 1940s London. Fifteen-year-old Rose sees and hears things that aren’t there. So does her elderly Aunt Cosy, only she has the excuse of very old age. Rose’s father has died three years before, and tomorrow her mother is getting married again to an Italian who ‘smells weird’ and has an irritating thirteen-year-old son. Rose feels left out, too depressed even to keep in contact with the German boy, Fred, whom she met on holiday last summer. Only Aunt Cosy, with whom she shares a name and a bond, seems to understand. When Aunt Cosy runs out into the night and Rose pursues her, their adventure begins.

This is a skilled time-slip tale with good local detail of both modern and 1940s London – Clapham Common, Covent Garden and the Underground. Rose witnesses some of the most terrible events of the Blitz, and intervenes unintentionally in her aunt’s romance with a young Commonwealth airman, later reported killed in action. Rose fears that she has inadvertently changed history…

This is a well-told, fast-paced narrative. The language is direct and unself-conscious, but depicts, with a candid lack of sentimentality, what it is like to be a 15-year-old grappling with the contradictions of adult life. We see Rose’s frustration with life in the London of the Forties: ‘It was so difficult to find someone without phones and the internet…’ and its casual racism – her only criticism of the term ‘Colour Bar’ is that it is ‘silly’ – will provoke some thought in its young readers. An excellent, emotionally mature read for 10-16 year-olds.