Wednesday, August 8, 2018

A Summer in the Twenties: Review

A Summer in the Twenties (1981) by Peter Dickinson is specifically about the summer of 1926 (and the lead-up to it). Tom Hankey's father has his fingers on the pulse of the business world and related fields and knows that the General Strike is looming for the summer. General Hankey calls Tom back from a holiday (where Tom has fallen hard for the headstrong heiress Judy) because he wants his son to learn to drive a train so he can help keep the coal moving. He tells Tom:

I've got a bit of sympathy for the miners and not much for the owners--after all, I know quite a pack of them--but if we let the unions close the country down and keep it closed for a month, we're done for.

Tom is willing to do his bit--after all, it will give him a chance to prove himself since he was just too young for the Great War. He gets more than he bargained for....he winds up involved with Bolsheviks and dockworkers and vigilantes. He takes part in workers' meetings; he starts reading Marx; he is arrested in a police raid (nobly winning the release of unfairly arrested workers); and, though convinced that there is indeed a real Bolshevik menace in Hull, he becomes fond of his new worker friends. . . and more than fond of leading agitator. There is an air of mystery to this seemingly straight-forward bit of fiction. Someone is playing dirty in the ranks and Tom's sense of honor forces him to unearth the one who is playing both sides off of one another and nearly gets himself shot for his trouble.

This is a splendidly atmospheric historical story--a grand mix of adventure, romance, and a political dilemma. It's strewn with eccentric characters and a bit of comedy and it gives a good look at the gentry learning how the working class lives. Some of the train bits run a bit long, but overall an interesting story about the period between the world wars.  ★★

[Finished 8/2/18]

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