The Summer of Broken Stories

Written by James Wilson
Review by Sally Zigmond

When we think of the 1950s, we see a time when children had a freedom and innocence they lack today. Mark is an only child who lives in a quiet village. The lonely summers stretch endlessly in the heat roaming with his dog or playing with his model railway in the outhouse.

When Mark comes across Aubrey Hillyard, a compelling man unlike any man he has ever met, living in a disused railway carriage in a private wood, he is totally captivated. Not only does he understand Mark’s imaginary world of his model railway: its society and inhabitants, he is also writing a book about how ‘The Brain’ controls everyone who has been ‘brainwashed’ by the new medium of television. Also involved in Mark’s desire to protect Aubrey is tomboy Lou, whose parents have recently arrived in the area and who run the grocery. There is a groundswell of villagers who wish to drive Aubrey out and some have serious suspicions that he is a criminal or a spy. Mark, who is determined to help Aubrey, is soon out of his depth because of his naïveté.

This coming-of-age story, in which Mark discovers that life is never black or white, that people rarely tell the truth and can let you down, is skilfully told and full of the sights and sounds, of hot summers, freedom and a world that has disappeared. Highly recommended.