Saturday, April 16, 2011

Escape from Warsaw

Historical fiction - or rather, 20th century war stories - are my special interest. Because of my family's personal history, perhaps I'm genetically-programmed to being obsessed with this dark past. There's no shortage of books on the subject, so I know I'm not alone with this interest. A family member said to me recently, why don't you just forget about the past. It's not healthy. Perhaps, it's not. But when I go visit my mom in the nursing home, and I see all these old people, I can't help but imagine what they've seen, who they once were, and where they come from. Life is about so much more than the present - unless you're a dog, of course.

That preamble was to justify my reading of yet another war novel. Escape from Warsaw - a mid grade novel by Ian Serraillier - was first published in the UK in 1956 with the title, The Silver Sword. In 1957 it was turned into an eight-part children's TV series by the BBC.

I've been doing background reading for an adult novel I'm working on and know so little about Poland. While I prefer reading non-fiction as research, I also enjoy learning about narrator techniques in novel-writing. It is, after-all, point-of-view that determines the story.

Escape from Warsaw (or The Silver Sword) is primarily an adventure story. Four children leave Warsaw in the search for their parents in Switzerland. The war has just ended and Europe is in shambles. While not rich in character, the novel does reveal an important aspect of war - families were torn apart and homes did no longer exist. Children were often without adults, and had to survive on their on. I imagine when this aired on TV - a mere ten years after the war had ended - that there would have been an intense interest.