The Runaway Summer by Nina Bawden – 20 Books of Summer

The Runaway Summer by Nina Bawden was first published in 1969 and it’s one of my 20 Books of Summer. The book is/was aimed at older children.

Mary’s parents are getting divorced and during the school holidays she has been sent to live with her Aunt Alice and grandfather who live on the coast, while everything is sorted out. Mary is premanently angry about the whole situation, she has no friends in the area and she knows that she’s behaving very badly towards Aunt Alice and Grandfather, but annoyingly they are very understanding, which only makes Mary feel worse!

In a fit of rage Mary runs out of the house and heads for the sea front where she gets into more trouble as she’s so angry she decides to steal some sweets, but her shoplifting has been seen by young twin sisters who have run away from their older brother Simon. He’s the eldest of a large chaotic family and their father is a policeman!

On one of her trips to the beach Mary watches a small boat coming towards it, when it reaches the shingle two dark men jump out and help a young boy out too. It all seems strange, none of them are dressed for a trip in a boat and they have suitcases, when they get on the beach the boatman sails off again. The young boy has a damaged arm and as the men make their way along the beach, he’s left behind and Mary can see that he’s crying.

But in no time the men are picked up by the police, and Mary decides that she must help the young boy and hide him from the authorities, but she’ll need help from Simon.

As you would expect fromm Nina Bawden this is a really well-written book, but I found myself checking the details about when it was first published and I must say that I find it fairly depressing that she was writing about illegal immigrants in small boats – and it’s still a huge problem and very much in the news 55 years later.

It turns out that Krishna had been flying from Kenya to London to stay with his uncle, but there was a deadline to do it legally and due to plane delays he had missed it, and so began all his troubles.

My  20 Books of Summer list is here. This is the sixth book that I’ve read on the list.




6 thoughts on “The Runaway Summer by Nina Bawden – 20 Books of Summer

  1. Hi Katrina,
    This Nina Bawden title sounds excellent. I’ve very much liked the two or three I’ve read by her–so that leaves me wondering: I wonder how many books she wrote, over how many years, and I wonder, too, if she ever wrote a novel for adults.
    Obviously, I need to do some research!
    As I recall, you have read a great number of her books, and as a librarian, you were undoubtedly aware of so many more.
    AND–you are in perfect position to finish your list of 20!

    • Judith,
      Yes she wrote books for adults too. It looks like I’m on course for finishing that summer reads list, despite having been away on holiday. I should have left some of the numbers blank though as library books have become available, and I’ll be reading them soon too.

      • Katrina,
        I would agree that library books, newly becoming available and that are not on your list, should also receive prominence, somehow. I, for one, would be very eager to know about everything you read, whether for the 20 Books of Summer or not!
        Looking forward!

        • Judith,
          I’ve just realised that I have already read one of the books on my list, so I’ll replace that one with a library book.

  2. This sounds good, although I would have been startled to read a book about human trafficking at 10 and agree it is awful that it is still a problem (especially in an election year). I think the only book by Bawden I have read was Carrie’s War, which I missed as a child but read a few years ago. I love evacuation stories.

    Of course, those old Puffins call my name whenever I see one. They occasionally turned up at a bookstore near us but what really drove me crazy was the descriptions at the back of the ones I had for books that weren’t in my library. I remember one that frequently appeared called The Fair to Middling but when I finally found a copy, it did not live up to the years of hype. Did you ever come across this one?

    • Constance,
      No I’ve never come across that book, wow it’s expensive, so I won’t be buying it. It doesn’t sound all that appealing to me anyway. I think some people just collect Puffin books and that obviously pushes the price up. Puffin sold boxed sets of postcards featuring their book covers some years ago. I was given the Penguin version, but I think the Puffins might have been nicer. I like books which feature children’s experiences in WW2. For a few people I’ve known being an evacuee saved them from being neglected in their own family, and led to a lifelong relationship with what turned out to be lovely proxy parents. Of course that wasn’t everyone’s experience.

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