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Operation Blackout Paperback – 26 Oct 2015
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About the Author
Victor Watson is a leading expert on children's literature, editor of The Cambridge Guide to Children's Books, Assistant Director of Research at Homerton College, Cambridge and a Trustee of the Centre for the Children's Book. He lives in Saffron Walden.
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Old Bank might be remote, but the war follows her and drags all the children into a fast tale of treachery and espionage, told in a plot with so many twists and turns that it positively urges the reader on to find out what had actually happened, and why, and the last revelation comes on the very last page. This book is truly a "page turner". Yet there is more to it than action: Hannah, Ollie and Abigail are unsure of each other at first, and are openly suspicious of Konrad, whose contradictory loyalties to England and to Germany, are difficult to reconcile, but as they examine his values it forces all the children to painfully evaluate their own. As they do so, one comment, quietly slipped into the text, will strike all adult readers: "hope is the prerogative of the young."
The atmosphere of the Fens is so overwhelming that it almost has the force of another character in the plot. The open expanse of this flat, dreary landscape bewilders and overcomes Hannah, still fresh from her life in blitzed London. It broods over events, sometimes as fog, sometimes as almost impenetrable darkness, sometimes as blazing sunshine. Night time is especially dangerous and the description of Cyclops quietly slippinging into the house in search of Hannah, and waiting for her to come home, is a passage of breath-taking suspense.
My grandaughter read the book and commented: "I really enjoyed the book, especially how everything was revealed about Hannah and Konrad in the last few chapters, when all the hints given throughout the book made sense. I also thought it was really clever the way the author managed to to make the two children's paths cross almost effortlessly through the book and how he managed to convince the reader that they were completely unrelated to each other in any way; this made the revelation about them at the end even more effective. I also really liked the characters in the Pickens family. Overall I thought the book was really well written and constructed, and had a really good ending as well."
Victor Watson has the skill to transport the reader to the time and place of the action. He describes the simplicity and lack of materialism that was life in the war years and vividly captures the bewilderment of the London schoolgirl on finding herself in the English Fens where the skies are so big, they create a sense of agoraphobia. Watson’s descriptions of the Fen mists and landscape are superb: “… the earth was black as coal.” And “dry frozen puddles on the path … cracked like gunshot when they were trodden on.”
I particularly loved “Charlie thinks he has caught the faintest of sounds, as if the night itself is fidgeting slightly.” And regarding when the news the sudden death of an outsider “reached the school, at playtime… They all stopped what they were doing and gathered in groups to share the delight of it. (Except the infants, who weren’t interested. And a group of boys who never stopped playing football. Never! Even when the bell went they continued passing the ball to an fro all the way to the main entrance.)”
I loved the way evil Miss Feelgood spoke – emphasising “the consonants … so that each word came out like a tiny piece of broken concrete.”
Operation Blackout made me smile often and the story is gripping, exciting too, with several completely unexpected twists. This is a great atmospheric read; much recommended.
I really enjoyed the story. It was split between two characters one boy and one girl and looks at their experiences of the war. The girl's story shows you the experience of London during the Blitz through to life as an evacuee in the Fens. The boy's story follow a young boy forced on a secret mission to England to save his family who are being threatened by the Nazis. Both eventually link up and the story is action packed and exciting from the start. I really enjoyed it and read it in one sitting unable to put it down.
This is a spin off from the Paradise Barn series I previously read and loved. There is some crossover in location and characters from that series make an appearance in this book but you don't need to have read them for this book to make sense (although I very much recommend that you do)
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