Carrie’s War – Nina Bawden

I know I have often been a little… erm, not sneery exactly but slightly nonplussed by people heading either to children’s classics or to young adult fiction now and again, apart from Harry Potter of course. I am now quite prepared to eat my words because one of the books that seems to have given a rather annoying period of multiple reading block the heave-ho is a children’s classic from the 1970’s, Nina Bawden’s novel ‘Carries War’. This book was just the ticket for an undemanding read that has a lot going on in it. Am I making sense, I do hope so.

‘Carrie’s War’ is set in, you guessed it, the second world war when Carrie Willow and her brother Nick are evacuated to Wales and into the lives of Mr Evans and his sister Louise, who likes to be called ‘Auntie Lou’. Now you would think that this would be a delightful household and indeed when it is just ‘Auntie Lou’ and the children times are quite happy. However as Nick describes him ‘Mr Evans is an OGRE’. A difficult and often bullying man who likes everything just so and who slowly but surely makes Carrie and Nick’s lives a less than happy one (not that they are fearful of him) apart from when they reach the sanctuary of ‘Druid’s Bottom’.   

Druid’s Bottom is actually the home of Mr Evans estranged sister Mrs Dilys Gotobed (I loved Nina Bawdens choice of names for people and places) her carer Hepzibah Green, who people believe is a witch, and the young Mr Johnny a boy with what we would now call cerebral palsy though people call him ‘simple’ at the time. It is also the home of one of the other evacuated children Albert Sandwich who becomes and unlikely friend to both Carrie and Nick. Druids Bottom also holds a legend of the screaming skull which Hepzibah keeps in the house. As time goes on Carrie is unwittingly drawn into almost spying for Mr Evans on his sister Mrs Gotobed and does something terrible, possibly the worst thing she ever did in her life!

Naturally I am not going to tell you what is it or you wouldn’t read the book. Mind you having said that I would imagine most people have read this book already and so I am probably really behind everyone else in actually getting around to reading it. I think this is a book a lot of children now study at school and rightly so because it’s a really rather enjoyable book for an adult and I would imagine it would be for a child, though as there isn’t really any magic, more myth, or any vampires maybe I am wrong? What has happened to the simple tales of old that people used to write for children, or am I merely just showing my age?

I was charmed by Nina Bawden’s story telling, her plotting and also her characters in this novel. I thought her perceptions of the war, the unknown and the good and the bad from the perspective of Carrie and her brother were incredibly well written, yet for some reason I never quite gelled with Carrie herself. I couldn’t always understand her motives be they wrong or right, intentional or not however that didn’t stop me from really enjoying this as a read. 7/10

I am now keen to read some of her adult literature such as ‘The Lost Man Booker’ nominated ‘The Birds On The Trees’. Have you read any of her adult fiction? Any thoughts on ‘Carrie’s War’ or any of her other younger fiction? I think I could have been missing out on a rather wonderful storytelling author for quite some time!


Filed under Nina Bawden, Puffin Books, Review

19 responses to “Carrie’s War – Nina Bawden

  1. I haven’t read anything by the author, or even heard of this book. Might be only on that side of the ocean, perhaps? As for young adult literature, some is, well, yeah, but I’ve been enjoying some this year that deals with some strong topics. It’s interesting really, and I was quite shocked as until last year I really didn’t read much at all of it.

    • Maybe actually, I know its been an issued book at schools here so it could be that. I thought it was well known everywhere but I could be very wrong iut might just be a british childrens classic.

  2. gaskella

    I’ve read several of her adult books over the years and they were all wonderful – Circles of Deceit one of her later novels was Booker shortlisted too. I have a couple more in the TBR pile.

  3. katrina

    There’s loads of great YA fiction around, Mr Tom is another great book of thus period. I’ve never read any of her other books, though it’d be interesting to see how she compared.

  4. I too love this book, for all the reasons you mentioned. It however never dawned on me that she had adult reading material. I will hot foot it to the library with the list you mentioned.

    Thank you,
    Lil Bit Brit

  5. I saw the television series of this novel a few years ago and really enjoyed it. I didn’t know that it was orignally a novel, so thanks for bringing this to my attention.

  6. One of my favourite ever novels, this! I try to reread it each year. She makes it look so easy. I think she’s a brilliant writer. I’ve read most of the kids books – ‘Peppermint Pig’ is my next favourite – and a bunch of the adult books – circles of deceit and walking naked being my favourites there. Her memoir of her husband, ‘dear austen’ is a lovely, touching and angry book.

  7. I read Carrie’s War when I was in school, but can’t remember that much about it apart from the subject. I don’t think I’ve read any of the author’s other books.

  8. Eva

    >>I know I have often been a little… erm, not sneery exactly but slightly nonplussed by people heading either to children’s classics or to young adult fiction now and again, apart from Harry Potter of course.

    I used to feel this way before book blogging, but I’m glad that I’ve changed my mind now. Although, *whispers* I’m not in the HP camp. 😉

  9. I read this when I was in primary school and your post jogged some memories, but I can’t for the life of me remember what the worst thing she’s ever done is (something to do with moving the skull isn’t it, not coming clear I’m afraid).

    And YA like everything has its good and its bad, but I’ve really enjoyed a lot of the young adult books I’ve read this year (but then I have a whole host of young adult blogs recommending me the good stuff).

  10. Kat

    This was my favourite book when i was younger, I even remember trying to write a sequel (!??!? who did i think i was?!??!) to it when i was at school, and yet i can’t remember what the awful thing was that Carrie did!! how frustrating, i want to know!

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