My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The War Before Mine has two settings. 2006 in Australia and the years around WW2 in the UK. This is a very emotional tale dedicated to the 7000 children shipped to Australia between the years of 1947 and 1970 as orphans. Children often treated as “nobodies” who had love and parentage withdrawn from their precious lives.
In 2006 Alex Mullen attends a reunion for migrant children. Shipped out to Australia at the tender age of 4 with a false birth certificate stating he was 5, Alex bumps into Frankie at the reunion. 5 years older than Alex, Frankie had taken the young boy under his wing and protected him. They were together in the Naz orphanage, the boat to Australia and the Dundrum orphanage until Frankie was sent away. Now they meet again.
We meet Rosie and her family living in Gateshead at the start of the war, the oldest child in a large family, she helps her Mam as she gets the family evacuated. But it doesn’t last long before their Da fetches them back. A proud man and a Romany he wants his family with him. When Rosie’s Mam dies soon after the birth of the next baby, Rosie is left struggling to step into her mother’s footsteps. She’s thrown a life-line when her Uncle offers her a job in his boarding house in Falmouth, she can get away from Gateshead but still send money home.
It’s in Falmouth she meets Philip Seymour, trainee commando, he’s billeted in her Uncle’s house. In a few precious hours grasped before Philip leaves for war, they fall in love and unite their passion. Philip then goes on a dangerous mission and the only news is that he’s missing in action. A desperate Rosie decides to join-up too, finding her feet in the ATS.
When a bomb kills her Uncle she’s left with no bolt hole when she most needs it and she must do the best she can in extreme circumstances.
There were several stories within this one book, the orphans sent to Australia, the dangerous mission the commandos went on and the plight of those left at home during the war years. Chapters go back and forth between the two settings as the story builds, some give extra background to the characters as Alex’s story unfolds. I really wasn’t sure how the story would end and it left me quite emotional at the end, still wanting to know more about Alex and the years up to 2006. A very good layered story.
This review is based on a free copy of the book given to me by Honno Press.