I can understand why this is regarded as modern classic. The setting’s vivid; all the characters – however fleeting an appearance they make – are memorable; and the story of how a shy, mistreated WWII evacuee comes out of his shell in the English countryside holds you in its grip from page 1. When he returns to London and his fearsome, terrifying fundamentalist mother, I forgot everything outside the book and the chair I was sitting in.
Here’s the but, though. I just wish it ended two chapters earlier than it does. I know why those last two chapters are there. I understand how they round out young Willie Beech’s development. They make perfect logical sense within the framework of the story. But they’re in the wrong place. As they stand now, they’re one ending too many: a cherry on top of the cherry already on the cake.
Of course, criticizing a classic in these online days has its hazards so I’ll stop now, lock the doors, barricade the windows and prepare to live off spam – it has its own key – for the foreseeable future.