Author Archives: alastair

In The Morning

Michael Cronin

Oxford University Press

1904442714

Nov 2005

Adult books have often addressed the issue of how the history of the Second World War could have been very different. Robert Harris’s Fatherland is a classic of the genre while Philip Roth’s more recent The Plot Against America gives a US perspective.
Michael Cronin has used this idea in Against The Day, Through The Night and now the final part of the trilogy In The Morning. His premise is that Britain was invaded in 1940 and the new book follows Frank and Leslie’s battle for survival in the dying days of the regime. Thanks to American and Soviet success on the continent, the occupiers are being forced to withdraw.
The pair are now experienced guerrilla fighters and the book recounts their attempts to hamper German efforts to depart quickly and efficiently. Along the way they meet a cracking cast of secondary characters including a double-crossing actor, collaborating policemen and British Nazis.
At the heart of the book is the story of the resistance’s attempt to stop the German commander Gauleiter M’ller escaping to Germany. The climax comes with Frank held captive by the Careys, a family of rich British Nazis, in Wiltshire and Leslie working with a local guerrilla group who are trying to foil the commander’s plans.
Having not read the first two books in the trilogy some of what follows may be unfair. However, In The Morning is being promoted as a standalone novel as well as the concluding part of the story so it’s fair to point out that it feels to this reader as if there are too many loose ends being tied, marring an otherwise enjoyable plot.
The plus points are a succession of fast-paced events that start immediately on Page 1 when partisans blow up a train. If you’ve read the first two books you’ll probably race through it. If not, it might be best to start at the beginning.

Barkbelly

Cat Weatherill

Puffin

1904442714

Oct 2005

Barkbelly is not like other boys: he was hatched from a wooden egg and he’s literally tough as teak. Brought up by humans in a village far from his kin, he flees his childhood home after an unfortunate accident ends in the death of a young boy.
He then embarks ‘ no pun intended ‘ on a series of adventures that bring him into contact with the circus, the urban jungle, pirates, slave traders and ultimately to Ashenpeake, the island home of his people.
Cat Weatherill’s tale of Barkbelly’s search for his roots addresses some fairly challenging themes: loss, betrayal and the true meaning of love. Ultimately, however, the action rolls on so fast that most will be swept along for the ride.
There’s a slight sense that Barkbelly is a series of fantastical vignettes populated with wild and wonderful characters rather than a coherent whole. However, the real issue if you’re using the book as a bedtime story may be persuading your kids to wait till tomorrow for the next instalment.