Elizabeth Gauffreau's Reviews > While the Bombs Fell

While the Bombs Fell by Robbie Cheadle
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it was amazing

While the Bombs Fell, written by Robbie Cheadle and her mother Elsie Hancy Eaton, is a fictionalized account of Eaton’s life as a young child growing up in rural Suffolk, England during World War II. I was initially drawn to the book because I have a long-standing interest in the history of daily life in the twentieth-century, in particular the daily lives of everyday people during times of war and other national and global events.

The opening of While the Bombs Fell skillfully establishes its intended audience as middle-grade readers:

"In June of 1942, as World War II raged, a little girl grew up in one of a row of small cottages on a street called “back lane” in a town called Bungay in East Anglia, England."

"Britain had been at war with Nazi Germany since 1 September 1939, and the little girl could not remember a time when the distribution of food, coal, and clothing had not been controlled. She listened for the sound of bomber planes and air raid sirens without even realizing it and even possessed her own gas mask."

This opening brought to mind the cinematic technique of starting with an extreme long shot that brings us to the door of the cottage where one little girl lives with her family; then the door slowly opens to reveal the family inside. I could also envisage the opening as a conduit from a present-day child’s history textbook into the living, breathing past as seen through the eyes of another child.

For an adult, While the Bombs Fell reads as creative nonfiction, with each short chapter a fictionalized account of a particular event in Elsie’s life supplemented by accurate historical research. The chapters include “Swimming and fishing”; “An introduction to school”; “A war-time Christmas”; “Goodbye Jean and the Bungay Buckaroos”; and “Illness in the house and D-Day.”

The deprivations of life in wartime are deftly woven into the fabric of each narrative, as can be seen from the following examples:

"The pantry had a meat safe on the floor. Shelves, empty except for some bread, lined the walls."

"The Sunday dinner usually comprised of a tiny shriveled piece of beef, cabbage, cooked dried peas, and a batter pudding."

"People ate herrings and other fish as a treat to supplement their bland and unfulfilling diets. Elsie would feel happy that Father had something more substantial than bread and jam to eat after a hard day of work on the farm."

For me, the highlight of While the Bombs Fell is its authorship: a mother relating memories of her childhood to her daughter, who uses her talents as an author to mark the importance of these memories and share them with readers to ensure that they will not be lost.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
December 29, 2019 – Shelved

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