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Wednesday, 3 September 2014

RF Delderfield - The Avenue Goes to War

book review written and read live on the bookshow by Babs Simpson August 2014.
The very recent & moving commemoration of D-Day reminded me about a book I read years ago and wanted to read again.  This book is a marvellous sprawling novel about the residents of an ordinary street in an ordinary London suburb from the late 1930's onwards.  It is very like the street where I lived as a child in a small suburb about 12 miles from the centre of London and the people described will be familiar to all of us older types!
There is Jim Carver, father to a large almost grown up family - Archie, the eldest is a bit of a Del-Boy type, Bernie & Boxer are inseparable twins, Fetch & Carry, younger girls, also twins, with an eye for the boys.
There is Harold godbeer, a solicitors clerk in a city office and Elaine firth, close friend of Archie Carver, there are spinster ladies, married couples, everyone beautifully described and believable.   It's a bit like getting to know a whole new range of people and I thought once or twice, like a very enjoyable soap opera with really good stories.
the war begins and of course everyone is affected.  Unlikely friendships spring up, people go away to fight, Jim joins the ARP, no-one is untouched by events.  The Avenue shares in the awful sorrow when somebodys beloved son is missing in action, later reported killed.  then the blitz starts and as the Avenue is under the flightpath of the German bombers attacking London thee are inevitable tragedies and destruction of peoples property and lives.
but this is not a sad book.  It rings true as an honest account of how life was for so many millions of ordinary people in the Second world war.  there are inevitable tragedies but also moments of pure comedy and I challenge anyone not to really enjoy it.
this book was preceded by the Dreaming suburb but you don't need to have read the first one to get great satisfaction from this one.  RD Delderfield was a prolific and very popular author who wrote, amongst many others, A Horseman Riding By and To serve Them All My Days, both of which were very successfully adapted for TV. Give him a try.

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