Book Review by Joan L. Cannon, Of War, Maturing, and Class: A Bundle From Britain by Alistaire Horne
The Trevor Zoo* at Millbrook School, New York
A Bundle From Britain
By Alistaire Horne © 1993
Published by St. Martin Press; Hardcover, 333 pp
I imagine it's a foolish thing to try to put down one’s immediate reaction to a book as part of a review. Yet in this case it seems obligatory. In the first place, the aftertaste is so savory it would be a pity to let it escape. In the second, it bears a message that was doubtless unintended, but important.
Alistaire Horne is the author of over a dozen books of modern history. In this narrative, we realize that the half-century surrounding World War II has lost much of its impact, if only perhaps because of the wars that have succeeded it. Much of that impact can be felt again as I remember it in this memoir. A Bundle from Britain is a completely engaging account of Alistaire Horne's evacuation from England near the beginning of the Nazi onslaught on Europe and especially England. As it happened, he was sent to a section of the American world that can hardly stand in as typical of the USA. That fact led me to the remark about an unintended message that would almost certainly be lost on young readers today.
There are classes and then there are classes. The one into which Alistaire Horne was dropped by chance along with a small group of like 'bundles,' happened to be at the time one that was restricted pretty exclusively to the area bounded on the north and south by Boston and Washington, DC on the east by the Atlantic and on the west by the Hudson valley. That's a fairly small part of a country called America.
With unalloyed gratitude and repeated affirmations of the kindness and sensitivity of his hosts and hostesses, Horne has written a beautiful bread and butter note to the United States. For this reader, his good fortune can’t be exaggerated. From an intellectual background, raised in British formality and tradition, he found himself among people with similar traits but who could understand him and react to him without the unfortunate British tendency to hide all emotion of any kind behind almost cruel rigidities.
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