Friday, March 13, 2009

Enemy Brothers
Constance Savery, il. by Henry C. Pitz
1943, Longmans, Green & Co.

When R.A.F. officer George Ingleford visits his sailor brother Ginger, he happens upon a group of Norweigans who had been picked up while escaping to England. And among the Norweigans is a German prisoner, a 12-year-old Hitler Youth who angrily says his name is Max Eckermann. George, known to his large family as Dym, recognizes with a shock the little brother who was kidnapped 12 years ago. But when Dym lays claim to the boy and takes him home to an English house stuffed with cousins and refugees, the fun begins. Max flatly refuses to believe he's the long-lost Anthony Ingleford, and wages a private war of resistance to convince the family to send him home. He sings a German nationalist anthem in church, breaks the blackout by shining a huge beacon from the roof of the house, and runs away again and again. Dym, stationed at a nearby air base, patiently returns again and again to find him and soothe the ruffled family feathers. Dym realizes that Max is driving everyone to distraction, but he promised his mother on her deathbed that he would find his brother. Also, he has the strong sense of saving Max from the Nazi mentality, a sense he tries to explain to his younger cousins.

He was being slowly poisoned in Germany. He was getting the poisonous teaching that is given to all Germans under Nazi rule... They are being taught that Germany is a master nation with the right to rule the world, trampling down the smaller nations, robbing them, torturing them, turning them into mindless, soulles slaves. They are taught that lies and spying, treachery and cruelty and broken promises don't matter if they are done for the good of Germany. They are taught that they must be mercilessly hard because pity and mercy are only shown by weak fools. That's all poison. It poisons the soul. I couldn't leave Tony to drink it in.

Max, despite his resistance to being Tony - and British - has an unwilling fondness for Dym. And when he finally gets a chance to go back to Germany and the woman he knows as his mother, Dym and his values make it unexpectedly hard for Max to leave.

A well-written and engrossing novel whose characters are slightly quaint but strong and likeable. Some of the imagery is dated and the earnest tone can sound old-fashioned, but it's believable from people in the midst of wondering if the Nazi invasion is really going to suceed - in one chilling moment, a runaway Max contacts a child he knew back home, a child whose parents are double agents now living in England, and the boy responds to the surprise of seeing his little German classmate by asking coolly when did the invasion start? Also impressive is the lack of the smug bullying tone that is unfortunately very common in British children's books from the first half of the 20th century. A very good old book that makes a compelling dilemma out of what should seem like an automatic choice.

Bethlehem Books

Other Books
The Reb And The Redcoats
The Royal Caravan
Joric And The Dragon (1964)
Scarlet Plume (1953)
Blue Fields (1947)
All Because Of Sixpence (1961)
Change With Me (Gateway)
Danny And The Alabaster Box (1949)
Young Elizabeth Green
Breton Holiday
Emeralds For The King (aka Green Emeralds For The King) (1938)
In Apple Alley (1966)
Magic In My Shoes
The Sea Queen
Gilly's Tower (Junior Gateway)
The Strawberry Feast
Welcome, Santza
To The City Of Gold
Dark House On The Moss
Lavender's Tree
Redhead At School
Meg Plays Fair
There Was A Key
Peter Of Yellow Gates
The White Kitling
Tabby Kitten
Thistledown Tony
Yellow Gates
Up A Winding Stair
The Drifting Sands (1971)
The Sapphire Ring
The Silver Angel
The Golden Cap (Gateway Series)
Five Wonders For Wyn (1960)
The City of Flowers
The Sea Urchins
The Good Ship Red Lily (1944)

About the Author
Savery wrote over sixty children's books, and lived to be 101. After taking an English degree at Oxford and a brief stint as a teacher, Savery went home to help her widower father, a clergyman, run his parish. She and her four sisters remained single throughout their lives; three of her sisters also became writers.


1 comment:

  1. For those who are interested, there is now a complete web site devoted to Constance Savery. Just enter her name on Google. There is nothing for sale there, only information.