Shoes for Anthony
The families living in a small Welsh village in the year 1944 eat and dress poorly. Eleven-year-old Anthony’s brothers work in the mines, and it’s bred in the bone that Anthony will someday do the same. For now, his dreams are twofold: to own a dry pair of shoes that fit, and to see the American soldiers who are supposedly coming to his village to train for what is hoped will be the final assault on the Germans. In between everyday chores, Anthony and his best friend, Ade, watch the Home Guard practice battle maneuvers using bedding sheets and one gun, efforts that amuse the boys and incite them to dangerous antics.
Although the novel moves slowly initially, the plot thickens to a frantic pace when a German plane crashes into a local mountain. The description of the Germans killed is graphically horrific, but the villagers’ attention is diverted by a surviving Polish prisoner of war named Piotr. Anthony (“Ant”) develops a close bond with Piotr, who is acknowledged as a war hero. Also, Ant’s mom is told that Ant is smart enough to take a test for a full scholarship toward further education. Soon two crises develop: an accident in the mine, and a revelation about Piotr that is shocking to all and especially dangerous for Ant. Loyalty binds these Welsh families, something evident in their welcome to guests and their painful, ultimate sacrifices. What they naively fail to realize, however, is that the enemy is loyal as well—to their homeland. Shoes for Anthony is a fine read showing another viewpoint of the “enemy.”