A chelsea concerto country girls read 4 gases in the atmosphere besides oxygen and nitrogen

Written in a chronological form, the book begin with practices for a ‘real’ air raid, carries on through the period of the “Phony War” (when many in England felt that the war was just going to peter out), and then the war itself. Story after story is related here as personal lives are abruptly interrupted when war is declared.

There are trains evacuating and re-evacuating children (because, during the Phony war, many of the children were sent back home … and then evacuated again), and civilians are requested to leave the trains free for departing soldiers. Parents watch their children depart in crowded, confusing train stations for safer country homes, wondering if the separation will be permanent. Soldiers leave for France (and some don’t return). Refugees arrive from Belgium, France, and the Lower occupied countries. And then the Blitz begins.

When the refugees begin to arrive in England, Frances, gifted with languages, works as an interpreter and assists in finding them homes, food and clothing. She is invaluable to many of those trying to carry on a normal life in the midst of chaos, suffering, and loss, and yet she retains a sense of modesty and self-abasement through it all.

“I worked for a long gruelling day until relieved by another Flemish-speaking nurse late next evening, and this time the misery and wretchedness of displaced humanity was one of sheer stark horror. And yet I could not look at all the grey tired faces of our own troops without intense wonder and gratitude that they were home – that with the horror of bombing and machine-gunning which had accompanied them – the RAF covering them and fighting for their protection all the way – it was surely nothing short of a miracle that such numbers were safe on their own shores. The troops had learned not to talk – not so the civilians. They poured into our ears tales of Dorniers, Messerschmitts, and Heinkels attacking them…”

The Londoners attempt to carry on normal life and their spirit seems unbroken even in the worst of situations. I found myself caught up more and more in this story, staying up late to read just one more page! However, this is not a light, pleasant read (just in case you are hoping for one…) Even though there are some happy times; parties, weddings, and new close relationships forming, there are no pretensions here, nothing glossed over or hidden in a sugar-coat of optimism.

The author does write about the courage of many but she also reveals the struggles that naturally arise among close quarters. There are arguments, complaints about the food (natural considering the shortages), and even an incident of suspected favoritism (over the size of allotted garden plots). The author, being a translator, is often called upon to settle these battles but when nothing else works, the police are occasionally called in to arbitrate. Both major and minor events are in the lives of those so pressed at such a challenging time in their lives are openly portrayed.

“Mr. Churchill had said that he promised us nothing but ‘blood, tears, toil, and sweat’. The Blitz was certainly bringing the blood, tears, and the toil, and it seemed to be bringing a great deal of dirt to some of us. When I stopped to think of the disgusting and revolting chores which the war was meaning for me I often rebelled violently, and wondered if a Florence Nightingale role really appealed to me – I loved fun, and was considered frivolous by my family. There were days when I felt I didn’t want to do one more thing for one more refugee or one more bombed-out person, although they compelled my compassion…”

“I had seen my friends in the height of the Blitz battling amongst those four things promised by Mr. Churchill, and in my much-travelled life I have never been more thrilled and amazed by their heroism. The quietest and most unexpected people seemed endowed with the courage of lions and the endurance of steel. Tireless and undaunted, they knew no thought of self as they faced fearful odds in the battle to save their fellow-men and their borough from the destruction from the skies.”