|Our Lady of Victories Catholic Church, Kensington, London.|
Bombed by 2 oil bombs on September 14, 1940.
"I read An Episode of Sparrows when I was a child growing up in post-World War II Liverpool. It was first published in 1955 when I was eight-years-old. It's said you can't go back, but I'm convinced this book is as good as I remember it. I've ordered a copy and look forward to immersing myself in it as I did as the ten-year-old searching for a bright future among the bomb sites and food shortages of post-war U.K.
I couldn’t have been more than ten-years-old when I first read 'An Episode of Sparrows', but I remembered with great fondness the feisty waif, Lovejoy, and her gargantuan efforts to make a secret flower garden in a hidden corner of a London bombsite in a downtrodden section of the British capital. I remembered her temporary guardian, Vincent, with his impractical ideas of running a “first-class restaurant” and his epic struggles to prevent it from sinking into bankruptcy in an area where people could barely afford a few pence to buy fish and chips wrapped in newspaper let alone pay for a three-course French dinner. I remembered the two wealthy unmarried sisters who lived in the posh square that lay at the border of Lovejoy’s working-class neighbourhood. I remembered the clash of class and culture when the sisters’ and Lovejoy’s worlds collided.
But I hadn’t remembered the subtle sophistication of ideas flying off the pages concerning morality, religion, entrepreneurship, and social responsibility. Like all good novels — written for readers of any age — those issues are understated. I certainly can’t remember being conscious of them as a ten-year-old. However, like any effective work of fiction, those underlying issues and ideas must certainly have made an impression. I obviously can’t know for sure, but I couldn’t help feeling as I re-read ‘An Episode of Sparrows’ some fifty years later that the book must have had a profound effect on me. I recognized in Rumer Godden’s story my own abomination of class discrimination in any form and a derring-do style of determination that sometimes misfires and/or backfires. I think I must have related very closely to the children in the book because I was reminded of the misery of growing up poor, However I was also reminded of moments of intense joy in small events that made life seem not only worthwhile but wonderful.
Apart from lucid realism coupled with a sophistication of ideas in ‘An Episode of Sparrows,’ the book has a suspenseful plot that sweeps the reader along. Every one of the disparate characters is finely drawn, and the descriptions of post-war London — from rubble strewn bombed-out houses to the sparkling exclusive shops of Bond Street — bring the 1950s city vividly to life. The book is also a lesson in excellent writing, including vocabulary that might challenge some adults. Although written for children, ‘An Episode of Sparrows’ makes for an engaging and thought-provoking experience for everyone."
|children playing on the site of a bombed out church in London, 1948|