Autumn 1939 and London prepares to evacuate its young. In No 5 Jubilee Street, Bermondsey, ten-year-old Connie is determined to show her parents that she’s a brave girl and can look after her twin brother, Jessie. She won’t cry, not while anyone’s watching.
In the crisp Yorkshire Dales, Connie and Jessie are billeted to a rambling vicarage. Kindly but chaotic, Reverend Braithwaite is determined to keep his London charges on the straight and narrow, but the twins soon find adventures of their own.
As autumn turns to winter, Connie’s dearest wish is that war will end and they will be home for Christmas. But this Christmas Eve there will be an unexpected arrival…
About Katie King
Katie King is a new voice to the saga market. She lives in Kent, and has worked in publishing. She has a keen interest in twentieth-century history and was inspired by a period spent living in South East London.
Guest Post By Katie King
Several years ago I moved to a coastal town in Kent, and for the first time I could see with my own eyes just how vulnerable to invasion during WW2 we must have felt.
For while the dramatic coastline around Dover – the infamous white cliffs that Vera Lynn immortalised in her wartime favourite, with her unforgettable singing of ‘There’ll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover’ – looks craggy and hard to scale, just several miles north the coastline becomes a gentle sweep of mile upon mile of softly cresting shingle, and calmly lapping waves. France can be clearly seen most days across the English Channel, and it is obvious that a determined invasion would have been hard to repel, which local people must have thought about often.
Kent has clear, unusual light (it’s no wonder many artists have been inspired by it) and big skies. And as I looked upwards, it seemed to me barely a heartbeat or two since those summer heavens were filled with the brave British and German pilots taking part in what we now know as The Battle of Britain.
I began to imagine what it might have been like to live during WW2. I discovered some wonderful wartime diaries and personal testimonies written by all sorts of ordinary people, many of them evacuees, and gradually the story of Bermondsey twins Connie and Jessie, and their heavily pregnant aunt, who are all evacuated to Harrogate, began to take shape as The Evacuee Christmas.
I’ve tried to recreate as accurately as I can what it might have been like to go from a poor, working-class area of London and find oneself in a more genteel town. Many city children struggled with their billets, and a lot of the adults who were also evacuated found it difficult to adjust. But some people had a wonderful time, and hated it when they had to return home, which I’ll explore in the final book of the trilogy.
The minutiae of life as it was lived – what people wore, what they ate, how they spent their free time, what happened to couples once they were parted – is what I’ve tried to blend into my writing. I’ve tried to make everyone behave in keeping with social conventions of the time, but hopefully they won’t seem too stuffy in these days of WhatsApp and Tinder.
It was a very different time, but the more I’ve read that was written of the war years by those who experienced it, the more apparent it’s been that they were men, women and children just like us today, and there’s something about that thought that I find almost indescribably moving.
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Merry Christmas from Kelly & The Team, thank you for all your support and love in 2017.