Prunes for Breakfast Paperback – 27 Oct 2015
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'I was fascinated... I began reading Prunes for Breakfast with interest, but found myself more and more drawn into the story, which was a real pleasure to read.' --The Bookbag.co.uk
'John Searancke's writing captures his father's experiences very nicely... A poignant military memoir that I highly recommend reading.' --Reader's Favorite
'A wonderful story… A jolly good book indeed. We give it five stars out of five.' --Island Connections
About the Author
John Searancke is restaurant reviewer for the Canary Islands newspaper Island Connections. He also provides independent book reviews for an English publishing house. Born in 1943 he lived his early life in Ashby-de la-Zouch. Later commissioned into the Territorial Army, he has been variously a hotel and restaurant owner, director and chairman of a marketing consortium, and latterly a partner in a commercial legal services company. He now lives with his wife Sally in northern Tenerife. This is his second book; Dog Days In The Fortunate Islands (Matador, 2014) was his first.
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I took my time reading this book and I will visit it again. As the story progressed, I felt a certain sadness, not quite despair, for the young couple Elisabeth and Eddie's situation, because to me, they mirrored the plight of thousands of other young couples whose lives were so brutally interrupted by war and its ravages. Their love survived despite their forced separation and Eddie's capture. Yet despite these circumstances, they set the bars for loyalty to one's marriage mate - despite all the odds that were stacked against them - high, something which seems to be less important in our modern days. So to me personally, this is what I would like to take away from this wonderful memoir - remembering the Searanckes for what they stood for and leaving me with a smile on my face.
So, if you want a quick read with action on every page, this memoir is not for you. However, if you enjoy reading about life, it's ups and downs, the resilience of the human spirit and real people with grit, then you'll enjoy reading this memoir, sitting on a favourite chair and having a brew!Prunes for Breakfast: One Man's War Based on a True Story
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.
Prunes for Breakfast focuses on the experiences of the author’s father, Eddie, when he signs up to join his local reserve regiment in the 1940s. What immediately sets it apart from many others on the subject is that much of the story is told through letters sent by Eddie to his wife. Letters that were so important at the time for the recipient, and which have been cherished and faithfully preserved.
I was fascinated by his commentary on day-to-day activities as the regiment wait for the call-up, some of which seemed humdrum and therefore challenging in their own way. But it doesn’t last forever. They starkly contrast to the horrors of war, which are then related in a very different way to protect his wife from the harsh reality of the situation. Latterly his capture and incarceration in a prison camp lends yet another dimension to his wartime experiences.
Without doubt I would recommend this book to anyone who has a special interest in World War 2 and the social history that surrounds it. The intimacy of the letters, in particular, gives the reader a direct insight of how one serviceman coped with being apart from his new wife, and latterly child. That, coupled with John Searancke’s excellent, clear writing style, makes this a compelling read
Did I enjoy it? Without any doubt, yes I did. It was an intimate and fascinating account of one man's WW2, cleverly told through a bunch of letters written by the author's father to his young wife. I even found myself paying attention to the Notes on Military References, important to read if you want a real understanding of the numbers of men who went into battle.
Thank you John Searanke for sharing your father's war with us. We really do owe his generation an enormous debt of gratitude. By the way, if my husband had a prolonged absence from home, and returned for a weekend, he too would arrive with his golf clubs!