Edinburgh book purchases

We were in Edinburgh earlier in the week, avoiding Princes Street we made straight for Stockbridge, my favourite haunt for second-hand bookshops, but strangely I wasn’t that lucky there. I bought a small copy of

1. The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr. For some reason this one eluded me through my childhood and that of my own boys. Mind you as it was first published in 1968 I would have been deemed to be too old for it back then. It’s a charming story though and I love the illustrations. After reading Judith Kerr’s wartime reminiscences in Bombs Fell on Aunt Dainty and When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, I had to get this one.

2. Tortoise by Candlelight by Nina Bawden is a Virago but was first published in 1963. According to The Observer it’s – ‘An exceptional picture of disorganised family life … imaginative, tender, with a welcome undercurrent of toughness’.

Books Again

Driving across the city to Morninsgide I was amazed to see four Persephone books in the Oxfam bookshop, they almost never appear second-hand. Unfortunately I already had two of them, but I quickly snapped up-

3. Greenery Street by Denis Mackail. I’ve been meaning to read this one for years so it’ll probably jump quite high up the TBR queue.

4. The Runaway by Elizabeth Anna Hart -which I must admit I’ve never even heard of.

I also bought a copy of Shirley Jackson’s We have Always Lived in the Castle, thinking that I had never read this one, but it turned out I had. Oh well, last time I borrowed it from the library so it’s nice to have my own copy. Jack might want to read it at some point in the future.

Have you read any of these ones?

Bombs on Aunt Dainty by Judith Kerr

A Lovely Way to Burn cover

I enjoyed reading Judith Kerr’s When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit so much that I decided to read the sequel as soon as I could get it from the library. In Bombs on Aunt Dainty, Anna (Judith) is now a teenager and living in London with her parents and older brother Max. The city is full of refugees who have escaped from the Nazis and you can imagine their depression as they all gathered around radios listening to the news of the German army swarming through country after country and seemingly only kept at bay from England by that very narrow channel. A lot of the ‘enemy alien’ men were taken away and interned on the Isle of Man and as Max discovered, even the people of German extraction who had gone to school in England were deemed to be possible dangers to the security of the country, despite them being some of the first victims of the Nazis.

This is another lovely read with Anna growing up and discovering her talent for drawing, and infatuation with her drawing teacher. As soon as Anna and her brother Max got to England they seemed to feel that they had reached home. They didn’t feel like that about Switzerland or France where they had lived for quite some time, until they didn’t feel safe there any more. They both assimilated so well that people didn’t even realise they were German, but their parents struggled with the poverty that they had never been used to and the complete change in their circumstances. Even when the Nazi bombs began to blitz London they stayed put until they were completely bombed out and a lack of money was a constant worry.

All through the book it’s obvious that the English were admired greatly. I can’t help wondering what happened to the traits that engendered such admiration, they’re not at all in evidence nowadays.

I was annoyed by the constant use of the word England when what the author meant was Britain and even worse was that the many allied forces didn’t get a mention at all, as if it was only England who fought against the Nazis when of course it was also fought by New Zealand, Australia, Canada, South Africa, India, Russia and of course eventually the USA. However using England when they meant Britain was a habit that people of a certain generation got into.

If you like a wartime setting you’ll enjoy this one. Now I’ll have to track down the next book – A Small Person Far Away in which Anna apparently goes back to Berlin after the war. I imagine it wasn’t for long though.

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr

 When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit cover

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr was first published in 1971 but it was only when I was watching the BBC’s Imagine programme which featured Judith Kerr that I thought it was about time I got around to reading it. She’s probably better known as the author of the children’s books The Tiger Who Came To Tea and the Mogg books. I had it in my mind that this book was an account of Judith Kerr’s experiences as a child in Germany in the 1930s – which it is – but I just didn’t realise that it is written from a child’s perspective with Judith being able to recount how she felt as everything in her comfortable life in Berlin changed due to Hitler’s increasing persecution of the Jews. Although it’s autobiographical Judith changed the girl’s name to Anna. In some ways her family was much luckier than most as her father Alfred Kerr had a high profile job as a journalist, he was a theatre reviewer for a Berlin newspaper and was hated by Hitler so he knew that he had to get out of Germany sooner rather than later and didn’t leave it until it was too late as so many did.

A telephone tip off from a friendly policeman telling Alfred that his passport is about to be seized means that Alfred has to leave his wife, Anna and son Max and make his way to Switzerland as soon as possible. He’s gone by the morning and it isn’t long before the family joins him. It’s a frightening time for them all and even in Switzerland they aren’t safe as Nazis holiday there. As the blurb on the back says: This is the start of a huge adventure, sometimes frightening, very often funny, and always, always exciting.

This was a great read and there are two more books in this autobiographical series:
Bombs On Aunt Dainty and
A Small Person Far Away.

I’ve just requested Bombs On Aunt Dainty from the library, so much for me not borrowing any more books!

You can watch the Imagine documentary below.