Living in England in the summer of 1940 was frightful, especially for parents. As the Blitz intensified, the German Luftwaffe raided London and other large cities, killing thousands. Parents longed for safety for their little ones. Britain established the Children’s Overseas Reception Board to evacuate British children to safety in Canada. However, on September 17, 1940, U-boats sank the Children’s Overseas Reception Board ship SS City of Benares, and 77 children were killed. Six days later the HMS Anthony rescued 48 survivors, including six boys. Britain began evacuating children to the English countryside instead and suspended the Board on October 3, 1940.
Against the Wind by Bodie and Brock Thoene covers this period of time, as Elisa Lindheim Murphy, a concert violinist, sends her own children overseas and then accompanies a group of British evacuees and Jewish refugees to the US. When a torpedo shudders through the ship, Elisa rushes to rescue her young charges.
The Thoenes are famous for their historically accurate fiction, and Against the Wind does not disappoint. All the period details are just right, the reader feels the plight of the British in the Blitz, and the sea adventure is harrowing and gripping, I enjoyed the characters, and the Thoenes do a great job sketching children who are charming but never cloying.
However, the diary format of the story left me feeling strangely detached, and a twist on the last page – while a joyful relief – was left unexplained and I still can’t figure out how it happened. Also, sensitive readers who can’t bear to read of children in peril should definitely not pick up this book.
Overall, this is an enjoyable book with great characters and superb historical detail, and I recommend it.