Bicycles and Blackberries

by Sheila Newberry

Read this in about 3 minutes
War affects everyone and the worst comes upon the children. Sheila Newberry begins a beautiful saga of life during the Second World War. And when she ends, it feels like an eternity has passed. 

Cover page 

Zaffre publishing has a peculiar way of designing the book covers of all Sheila Newberry's books. These covers have a nostalgic photo from the past, all distressed with the title and name in clean fonts. The font and the picture compliment each other. The spine and back are given ample attention to, too. 
The cover is definitely a window to the content inside. 

Characters

Georgia is an eleven-year-old girl who looks much older than her age. She is smart, though, but a little irresponsible. She is a fun character who completes her teacher's sentences with quirky lines of her own. She whispers things and giggles in class. She is reluctant is her short comings and makes up excuses to hide them. 
While from the cover it looks like the book is all about Georgia, it is hardly so. 
There are other very important characters in the book. Nell is Georgia's mother. She is a strong woman- spine of the family. Phoebe is Georgia's foster mother. She is resting her own wound from a faulty love life. Jube is forever in love with Phoebe but she doesn't see it for a long time. 
There are other complicated characters in the book such as May, Helga, Kenny, etc who make the story interesting.

Content 

The book begins with a quote from R. L. Stevenson's poem. 
'The friendly cow all red and white, 
I love with all my heart;
She gives me cream with all her might 
To eat with apple tart'.

It is a poem that Georgia is taught in her school. This is how she breaks the ice with Phoebe, her foster mother when she is sent to live with her. They soon bond over a lot of things and she finds her life in the country side. The war is raging and everyone is affected by it. Her brothers are drafted and she will soon lose her father too. The war has shaped everyone. Every character in the book has its own secret that they fear will ruin their lives further, but as they say, life goes on.
Each one loves one other for what they are despite the troubled circumstances. The war brings everyone together like nothing else. 
It is a story that knits all the characters together beautifully. Each chapter brings a beautiful twist to the story. 
The most endearing part of the book is the picture it paints of the place during the war. Rationing, no proper schooling, the scanty jobs and gender bias at work and women fighting it; the book covers everything. There is still the adolescence love story, one boy that both your friend and you fall for, whispers of the scandals around, looking for safety in marriage. It is like hearing grandma's stories from previous years with a cup of warm tea in your hand. 

Language 

The book is written in old country style English. The kind of English your English teach will roll her eyes to, every time it is spoken. But it brings in the authenticity to the story. The content is quite fast paced. It keeps you on your toes. 

Good points 

The cover page is beautiful. The characters are complicated but still simple when they are read about. The stroy moves fast. The language is very simple. The book gives a good taste of life during the war. It is almost nostalgic. 

Bad points 

It may take some time to adjust to the narration. It seems quite fast. Also, for those who do not particularly read this genre, the book may take a little time to be likable.

Overall 

I am glad I agreed to read and review the book. It is definitely a new type of literature for me.

Who do I recommend this to

This book is for those who like reading about wars and how it has affected people. It is also for those who like interwoven stories with intriguing characters. 

Quotable quotes 

We're both lonely, he thought, but she doesn't want me. 
'Trouble is, things are never as perfect a second time,' Georgia said.

Veena Choudhary

An avid reader and history fanatic.

Mumbai, MH merakipost.com