When The children Came Home is a commentary on the experiences of British children, evacuated to avoid dangers associated with bombing and invasion during WWII, when they returned to the families from whom they had been separated. Summers has positioned personal stories against the historical background of the military and government action in response to progress of the war. The stories have the effect of making the general information more immediate and intense. I found it to be a really powerful witness to the sense of dislocation that war inflicts.
The main impact of the stories was how the years spent in the care of others irredeemably distanced the children from the parents who had sent them away ‘for their safety’. The focus of this book is to record the effects on families after the return of the absent ones. On the mothers, who had worked in factories to supply the war and been prematurely aged by their experiences, and tried to welcome home children who only spoke Welsh, who were dressed as and had the mannerisms of Americans, who had not wanted to leave their foster home or who were frightened and repulsed by the grimness of their London home. On the foster families who had to give up children after five or six or seven years having loved them. On the fathers who were irritable and impatient as a consequence of direct involvement in the war and made the more so by trying to find a way to re-bond with children, often rebellious, angry and anxious children, when they were so tied to the conventions of their own upbringing. On the children themselves who worked around the massive fracture in their upbringing for the rest of their lives.
This book celebrates how the families ‘got on with it’ as their difficulties to readjust were disregarded by the authorities but it is a testament to just how hard that proved to do.
The main effect of this book is to make me realise how ‘uprootedness’ is a demanding and difficult feature in so many lives and has long lasting effects; though as Summers stresses all the way through her book they can be positive effects. Although it is about WWII it has application to anyone who has had a childhood riven by external changes. One of the most valuable attributes of this book is it allows people to tell a story they needed to tell years ago. The Bibliography provided by this book is a gem.