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Friday, 4 September 2009

Blitz Kids by Elinor Mordaunt.

ODE and I share the same enthusiasm for EM's Blitz Kids (1941), narrated by a young cockney girl, Nancy using the form of language a ten year old would use.
What's the good of worrying? That's what I say. People who worry, especially kids like us, who have got to grow up strong, are fighting Hitler's battle for him. That's my idea. No one told me, I thought it out for myself. Look here, this is it. When we grow up, Irene and me - that's Nancy - and Tom and Pat and Clara and Harold and the baby, who's Gladys - that's a good name for her, for she's got Glad Eyes; always laughing and shouting and playing at being a prize fighter, with her funny little fist, though in real fighting one mustn't kick - we have got to go on fighting Britain's battles for her. Even if all the Germans are killed, as I hope they will be. But not the Italians - at least, the ice cream ones, or the men with barrel organs and monkeys dressed in red coats and caps. [p.7]

Notice that 'one' in 'one mustn't kick', is neither working class, nor cockney, nor childlike. By the end of the book it had become 'you' and 'we'.

Dad is a fish porter and in the Home Guard, a former prize fighter and man to be reckoned with, when he was awake. Mum died when Gladys was born. 'They' soon raise their heads, the authorities who dominate the lives of working folk. After many adventures and scrapes, life in London was seen as anxiety free. Dad married a new wife, and they get a better house.
For nothing's ever so bad as you think it's going to be, and often better. We had thought, from what Hitler said, that London would be flat-in-ruins-and-burnt- out, and everyone killed the first week. And here we were as spry as ever, and up and doing as never before. And all the nastiest, dirtiest, pokiest little houses cleared away; ready for a newer and better London to be built. [p.158]
The book finishes with a drawing of St Pauls still standing amid the ruins, and a demon chasing Hitler and jabbing his backside with a trident (with two pronges, so a bident?).

Elinor Mordaunt (1872-1942) was almost at the end of her life, to die in 1942 aged 70. A penniless member of minor aristocracy, she had traveled the world, had two disastrous marriages at the beginning (producing one living son) and latter years. She had to fend for herself, teaching, gardening, copper sculpting, and most importantly writing. Her autobiography in 1937, Sinabada (Lady King) is honest and entertaining, pulling very few punches except that she refuses to dwell on her marriages. Of New Guinea, where a relative was governor general, she says that 'murder is a social obligation' and half wishes she could get rid of a few thorns in her flesh in a similar way. The son lives in Kenya and raises a family of his own. More on EM later, but Blitz Kids is refreshingly different. Real kids, doing real things, and saying brave things. Surely her characters were the real children she was working with.

2 comments:

  1. Hi Stephen

    My mother is extremely upset that she cannot find her copy of 'Blitz Kids', (which she's had since its publication in 1942), especially as she now thinks she must have lent it out to someone, but cannot think of who that could be.

    I've searched and searched online for a replacement copy for her, but to no avail. Would you know if I could purchase, or download a copy somehow or somewhere for her?

    Kind regards
    Annie Elmore

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  2. Hi Annie, thanks for getting in touch. I have checked my usual internet sites and there is not a copy for sale at the moment. Go to www.abebooks.co.uk, search for the title and when it replies that no copy is available, 'create a want' - then it will email you the monute a copy is uploaded by any bookshop. Stephen

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