You may remember that I posted an interview with Paul Dowswell the other week in which I mentioned his most recent book which has been published in the Netherlands but not the United Kingdom. After we spoke, Paul very kindly sent me the novel in the original English (as, most unaccountably, I don’t read Dutch). It’s not a secret that I think Paul is one of the best writers of historical fiction for young people so I’m sure you’ll understand how eager I was to read Out of Nowhere.
As he does so often, Paul tells his story from some unusual viewpoints: as well as teenagers living in London, we meet their contemporaries in the Netherlands, some German boy soldiers and a Polish slave worker. I’m told the Dutch title of the book means conflicted and that’s exactly what all these young people are. Yvie in London straddles the world of her working class parents and the wealthier one of her classmates; in Kerkhuizen, Marijke and Thijs must weigh up the benefits and perils of Resistance work, while Rolf and Jurgen try to make sense of the way the war is progressing for Germany. And for Tomasz, whose life is controlled by his oppressors, the question is stark. Is there any point in struggling to stay alive?
It seems a disparate group but one thing unites them: the V-2 rocket. The protagonists are creators, saboteurs and victims of it and although they never all meet, they each play a part in the others’ lives. The pacing of the book as it cuts between locations and personalities is superb. The main characters are living, breathing, flawed human beings whose fate I cared about. There’s a lot packed into the book and Paul’s research must have been copious but it never flattens the storytelling.
It’s a mystery to me why this book hasn’t found a British publisher and I’d like to think that out there somewhere is one who will change that.