I just finished reading this excellent book - honest, whimsical, funny, sad and poignant by turns, it's my pick of the week and 5 star recommended.
Here's my review:
Torn from his cosy well-to-do life as a (very) young company director in Burton on Trent, with its all-pervading smell of roasted hops from the breweries, Private Edward Searancke (the author’s father) is dumped from the back of a removals van into a far less cosy life in the British army. There’s a war on, Hitler is at the gate, and Edward is determined to do his duty – even if it means endless square bashing (torture to his fallen arches), separation from his new bride Elizabeth, and nowhere to park his golf clubs. Yet it is through a combination of golf and grit that he rises rapidly up through the ranks to become a captain, one of the brave many who stormed the beaches at Normandy in 1944.
The skill of this marvellous book is the combination of real-life letters, written to and from ‘Eddie’ and Elizabeth, and straight ‘imagined’ narrative as meticulously crafted by their son, John (aka “JE”). The frustration of the two lovers, as Eddie is shunted from pillar to post, from the Isle of Man to St Albans, from Ireland to Kent, and finally to France is brilliantly evoked: what marriage could have had a harder start, when every time they try to meet, a last minute extra duty or a politically important game of golf (I laughed at this, Elizabeth didn’t!) manages to keep them apart. I scanned the letters a few times to work out how they managed to conceive young John!
I also scratched my head over where the Prunes for Breakfast of the title might be – halfway through the book and not a prune in sight – but then Eddie gets captured by the Nazis and banged up in a POW holding camp for officers. What’s for breakfast? Oh yes, it’s prunes, and Eddie becomes a very regular soldier indeed. How glad, however, he is to exchange this meagre repast for steak and chips upon his release by the Yanks – he hasn’t seen a chip in years!
At times hilarious, at others a stern reminder of how Britain kept the great in Great Britain, this is not just the story of how an ordinary man performed extraordinary things in times of war. It is a paean to the virtues of hope, courage and the love of two people whose pens were mightier than the sword. Kudos, John, for interpreting their love and penmanship so beautifully – this is a wonderful read.
Get your copy here
If you’re reading this blog, it’s a pretty safe bet that you already know a bit about me. I’m the slightly loopy Buddhist cat lover who (mainly) indulges in travel memoirs. I’ve got four out now, working on a fifth, and then I’ll run out of life experience and have to start writing fiction. My main loves in life are my German wife Andrea, who has inspired so much of my work, and my pussy muse Sparky, who has inspired the rest. I am blessed.