by Richard Brooke
with Elise Brooke
Johnathan is written from the perspective of a young boy, 4-16 years old, growing up in Yorkshire England during the 1940’s. It is based on the life of the author and published posthumously by his daughter Elise as a tribute to him. She notes that she didn’t know her father as her parents divorced when she was four years old, so the book was a revelation for her.
Johnathan lives with his father, mother and older brother (4 or 5 years his senior), in Manchester. When WWII breaks out, his father enlists with the Navy and his mother struggles to raise the two boys on her own. Johnathan describes his confusion and lack of understanding, but soon the excitement of starting school eclipses his worries. He is close to his mother, and notices that her health starts to deteriorate.
His brother is sent to boarding school, Johnathan sees his father when he is on leave and notes the arrival of refugee children from London. He is, however, largely concerned, as small children are, with their own world. As the realities of war move closer to his home, trips to bomb shelters and landing of an undetonated bomb behind his aunt’s house are described with excitement.
Then the Barton Docks are bombed and his house is destroyed. Fortunately he and his mother escape with minor injuries and receive overwhelming support from their local community and family. They move to Manchester to live with his aunt, however his mother’s poor health means that she is admitted to a hospital for a long period of time.
Johnathan is close to his aunt and uncle and has good friends at school. When his uncle becomes sick, his aunt arranges for him to be cared for by a Lord and Lady who support naval officers in need. He lives in relative luxury, but a couple of boyish mishaps, or perhaps rebellious acts, mean that he is sent away to “the Institute”. Johnathan struggles to adjust with the constant change and separation from his family.
Finally, the war is over. His mother buys a cottage and they eagerly await the return of his father. Tragically, events conspire against him and Johnathan is sent back to the Institute. Johnathan again struggles to adapt and cope with School Certificate. The book ends as he contemplates a future career.
“Johnathan” is written in conversational style in a large font and almost double spacing, and at 170 pages is an engaging read, suitable for young adults. On the downside, grammatical, spelling, capitalisation and formatting errors on every page are a distraction. Exclamation marks are overused. An editor would have quickly spotted that a whole section is repeated at the beginning and end and provided some context such as a description of the social and geographical setting.
Overall, the first-person perspective, emotional upheavals, powerful family bonds, sense of loss and phases of grief are sensitively portrayed. How children are protected, perhaps unnecessarily, from reality is revealed as he discovers the cause of his mother’s mystery illness.
Authors: Richard Brooke with Elise Brooke
Publisher: Elise Brooke
Available: As paperback, and ebook. Amazon, Book depository and direct from author email@example.com