Roberto's War by Alan Lambert


Roberto's War by Alan Lambert

The effects of war get too close to home for Robert and his friends. It is 1940, the first hot summer of the War. In the mining valleys north of Cardiff, Robert, Freddo and Aldo escape the day-to-day drudgery of rationing and blackouts with a carefree afternoon swim in the old abandoned quarry. But then the evacuees arrive.


The important contribution made by Italian immigrants to life in south Wales during the last century has recently been celebrated with an exhibition which will find a permanent home in St Fagans Museum. The shops and cafes opened by enterprising people from some of the poorer areas of Italy provided ice cream and other small luxuries which helped to make life more tolerable for generations of the Welsh, especially in the industrial valleys of the south where few treats could be afforded. Once their business was established, many Italian families made Wales their permanent home and whilst they retained their ties to Italy, they integrated well into the local community. Unfortunately, however, fear of outsiders is only too easily played upon in troubled times, and the Italian community suffered their share of abuse when Mussolini allied himself with Hitler. This period is the setting for an engaging first novel by Alan Lambert. The focus of the story is the friendship of Robert, whose father is fighting in the Navy, and Frederico (Freddo), whose parents own the local tobacco and sweet shop. Their families are not only living with the food shortages, blackouts and absences caused by the Second World War, but also with the further strains of accommodating evacuees from the south of England. Roberts loyalty is tested when Freddos disabled elder brother, Aldo, becomes the butt of the evacuees jokes. The situation worsens when the sweet shop becomes the focus of xenophobic anger and the Italian born father is deported to Canada. The novel effectively portrays the lives of valleys children in the period, both freer than todays children because of the lack of adult supervision of their play, but also subject to unquestioned adult authority and lacking in material comforts. Roberts character is well drawn; he is sympathetic but by no means a hero, and contemporary readers will understand his struggle to stay loyal to uncool friends. The insinuating charm of the evacuee from Kent with whom Robert unwillingly shares a room makes him able to conceal his bullying and manipulation of the younger boy; the issues of injustice and the difficulty of being heard which arise are as alive for todays readers as they ever were. The climactic event is well developed, but I was slightly disappointed at the lack of psychological subtlety with which the unpleasant evacuee is dismissed; the evacuees as a whole are unsympathetically drawn which jars, bearing in mind the books main message. However, this was my only hesitation in recommending this enjoyable novel. Wendy Crockett It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council. Gellir defnyddior adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar, trwy ganiatd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru. -- Welsh Books Council

About the Author

Alan Lambert was brought up in the Merthyr valley but now lives in London. He is a former teacher and later worked for the BBC as Commissioning Executive for primary school programs. He has co-authored a number of teaching handbooks and abridged over 25 children's books for BBC Radio 7. Roberto's War is his first novel.

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Book Info


176 pages


Alan Lambert
More books by Alan Lambert


Publication date

28th August 2009



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