Tag Archives: Anne Frank

Resist

It’s the tulip bulbs I’ve never forgotten. Even as a child, learning that Audrey Hepburn had to eat tulip bulbs to survive during the war, it seemed both fantastic – in a bad way – and hard to believe. Just as I couldn’t really get my head round what Audrey was doing in the Netherlands.

If you read Tom Palmer’s new book Resist, you will find out, and it will probably leave you with tears in your eyes. Unlike many novels about the resistance in the war, in whatever country the story might be set, this one is a little more – dare I say it? – ordinary. Because it is based so much on what actually happened to Audrey and her family, rather than what an author has simply made up.

You meet Audrey – called Edda here, for her own safety – in her home village of Velp, near Arnhem, as she is setting out on helping the local resistance. It’s the kind of thing you need to keep secret, because the less anyone else knows, the safer you all are. Edda’s family have had bad things happen to them, and lying low is the way forward.

Covering the last two years of WWII, we learn much about ordinary Dutch people. Except, they are not ordinary; they are brave, albeit often in a quiet, life-saving way. I learned more about Arnhem, which to me was ‘just’ a place name connected with the war, in a bad way. And the tulips.

The same age as Anne Frank, we have to be grateful Audrey survived, if only just. It’s hard to believe that starvation can be so much more of a threat than being hit by bombs, say. And people fleeing their old homes has become much more of a current thing than we could ever have thought, until recently.

This is the latest of many thoughtful books from Tom Palmer about WWII and its effects. Its brevity adds to its seriousness. And the cover art from Tom Clohosy Cole is stunning.

What if?

It’s not easy being misunderstood. I just want you to know that.

OK, so I’m not good at saying what I mean all the time. Let’s continue yesterday’s discussion here, since I can’t put all I need to say, or try to, in a comment.

To Meg Rosoff; I’m not talking about a ‘what if’ situation. I like them and they are fair game and all that.

I like alternate settings as well as the next witch. I don’t mind authors borrowing plots from other books or real events if you can’t come up with anything original. But the book I moaned about on Wednesday should have been written either as a fact book about an actual mission, or as an adventure that was almost, but not quite the same as the original one in real life.

Then I started thinking about The Three Musketeers as an example. Dumas wrote about real people like kings and cardinals, but his main characters were the fictional musketeers. Maybe Buckingham had an affair with the Queen of France. Maybe he didn’t. That kind of playing around with what someone might have done but most likely didn’t do, is normal fiction.

Thinking about later generations being upset at what’s been done to the memory of someone ‘great’ who achieved something special, I pondered what could be done to ruin the Resident IT Consultant’s ancestor Michael Faraday. You could write a book of fiction where someone else discovers Faraday’s cage, for example. But the best, and I think commonest, way of dealing with Faraday and his cage in fiction would be to let him have a young assistant as the main character, and to see Faraday through their eyes. I feel that’s what Theresa Breslin does in The Nostradamus Prophecy.

We were sitting around wondering if Anne Frank was a good example, but I suspect not. There could easily genuinely be ten girls in her situation, writing diaries which are found and published.

OK, how about this as an example? In fifty year’s time someone writes a novel about an author who writes a brilliant first novel called How I Live Now, and who wins awards for it, and takes up horse riding and goes around telling people to start blogs. Except in this novel the author is 23 and Italian and is not called Meg Rosoff.

I’m not getting it right, am I?

This isn’t libel, because the people originally involved are not mentioned or named. They should have been. Some are dead, but I believe that some are still alive. (I know I’m getting closer to giving things away.) They most likely won’t be reading a children’s book, but their grandchildren might. And what this novel says is that Granddad never did that heroic thing. It was really a bunch of children.

From what I hear from some of you who write fiction, editors often tell authors to change things. I’d like to know what this editor thought he/she was doing, letting this through.