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Clem’s background is very working-class but the girl he has his first relationship with is wealthy, travelled and the daughter of the local Lord. This happens at a time when there is a power struggle between Khrushchev of Russia and Kennedy in the USA and peace is threatened by the Cuban missile crisis.
World-wide everyone realises that if this situation gets out of control, then life could be annihilated. This catapults Clem and Francoise (Frankie) into feeling they should consummate their relationship before the world ends. So they choose a quiet beach where no-one will find them, a beach that was plastered with mines during WW2.
For me the first part of the tale, the family backgrounds, was interesting but I felt too long but it is well worthwhile hanging in there. Part two covers the author’s depiction of the politics and strategies of the Cuban crisis. His portrayals of Khrushchev and Kennedy are so pithy, it is as if he was drawing a cartoon of each man. Interspersed with the author’s entertaining version of a very fragile time in the 20th Century, are chapters (some with very funny headings) following the developments in Clem and Frankie’s relationship. These show how innocent lives are so tragically affected by larger world events.
The ending very cleverly ties everything and everyone together. I want to own this novel so I can read it again. The author’s reputation as a writer of acclaim is thoroughly deserved. It could be considered as a class text, as the book raises many issues to consider. Not only a book for young adults, but one I recommend to teachers.
Review by Jill
image by dok1
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