Saturday, 21 May 2011

Kingdom by the Sea

Remember me telling you about discovering the author, Robert Westall, who is from this area of the world?  Well I just finished another of his books, Kingdom by the Sea.  It is set during WWII and it's about a young boy whose family home is bombed.  He's the only one to make it into the shelter in time.  Fearing that he'll be sent to live with a crochety old auntie, he runs away.

He spends his first night alone on the beach at Prior's Haven.  He sleeps under an over-turned dinghy.  He is discovered and befriended by a young dog whose tag indicates he comes from a house on a street that has been entirely decimated.  They hide from the German bombers and shelter in the alcovers along the North Pier.  You've seen those.

Priors Haven beach

Together, they make their way up the coast, meeting various other people who either help or hinder them.  They make it all the way up to Berwick-upon-Tweed, on the border with Scotland, before their journey ends.  I won't say more, just in case you decide to read the book, but it was a delight to read  because I knew all those places fairly well.

Priors Haven is now all cluttered up with the Rowing Club and the Sailing Club, but of course it wasn’t always.  It was very easy to picture the opening scenes of the book as it might have looked. 

I don't remember reading a book before that I was so familiar with the setting.  The closest I ever came was The Outsiders, written by S.E. Hinton, a high school girl, about the gangs in her Tulsa high school.  It was a big hit with most of us in Oklahoma and I read my copy to bits, but I wasn't at all familiar with Tulsa, then or now.

If you get a chance to read this or other Westall books, I’d highly recommend them… Happy to supply pictures of local landmarks!

Have you ever read a book set in a place you knew well? 

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