The Bakehouse by Joy Cowley.
Bert is in his 80’s when his great grandson comes to visit, wanting to know of an incident in his life during World War 2 that involved an abandoned building they called the Geronimo Bakehouse.
It awakens feelings and memories in Bert that he would rather forget and a decision he made that altered the course of many of his family’s lives especially his sister Betty who was 15 years old at the time.
The year was 1943, Bert was 11 years old and playing war games in his head and in the playground. It was a time when a Japanese invasion was feared, the men were overseas fighting and the Americans had come to town with their candy, nylon stockings and their swagger. The girls were hooked..
Bert imagined air raids like he heard on the BBC Radio News and decided to set up a secret shelter in an old bakehouse. It is to be used by a soldier who has gone AWOL and doesn’t intend to return. Bert and his sister help and feed him but Bert has misgivings about it all. You will have to read the novel to find out what is going to happen.
An excellent short novel. Sophisticated, no nonsense writing that recreates the war time atmosphere in New Zealand, a time when young women painted lines on their legs to simulate stockings, we all sang “bless them all Bless them all, the long and the short and the tall” and said such home spun philosophy as “what the eye don’t see, the heart can’t grieve over” and loose lips sink ships.
Family life during war time is portrayed very well and poor Bert carries his secrets around with him like a heavy unexploded bomb.
Superb reading for intermediate and junior high school students.