In this unique, engaging memoir, author Rose Anna Crawford reflects on her childhood and teenage years in Scotland during and just after World War II. Her story begins in 1931 with her birth but gains forward momentum in 1939 when Britain enters the war. As a mechanic, the author’s father is enlisted to train British soldiers to work on tanks and armored vehicles and stationed in Madagascar. The family is living in London at the time, but the author, her siblings, and her mother move back to Dundee, Scotland to stay with family and wait out the war. They are relatively safe, but living in close quarters with aunts and uncles presents its own set of challenges. In 1941, the German Luftwaffe bombs the munitions town of Clydebank, just a few miles from where the family is living.
In the later pages of the book, Crawford recalls the increasingly strained relationship between her parents. The reader will likely sympathize with the challenges inherent in this situation for the author as a young woman, but Crawford’s version of events is rather biased toward her father (who left the family, though exactly why is not made clear) and callous to her mother, who was left behind with the children. She also recalls her adolescent apprenticeship as a seamstress, first dates at a local dance hall learning the foxtrot, and first loves and heartaches, all in a charming stream of colloquial language (punctuated with Britishisms like “tickety-boo”).
While the story Crawford tells in EIGHTY YEARS IN THE MAKING is an exceptional one, her narrative technique is somewhat wooden and one-dimensional. She relays the facts but often fails to bring them to life through the sort of vivid description that truly sets a memoir apart from the pack. There is also a considerable amount of extraneous information, particularly from the author’s earliest years — recounting anecdotes of little consequence like quarrels with siblings and games played at school. Nevertheless, it is remarkable that she remembers so many events from her youth, even relatively insignificant ones, with such detail and precision. And there are certainly bright spots — her memories of attending the coronation parade for King George VI, for instance, are particularly striking.
EIGHTY YEARS IN THE MAKING is a tender coming-of-age memoir that is distinguished by the author’s noteworthy experiences and the tumultuous time in which she grew up and while the storytelling is sometimes plodding, it’s a worthy addition to the canon of personal accounts from WWII.
~Lisa Butts for IndieReader