In the third book, Impact, normal adolescent angst and severe post-war austerity lend tensions to the toxic relationship between Bill and his devious cousin, Kenneth, but the tipping point is the sense of ownership, the removal of control. Kenneth intrudes too shockingly, just too far.
Bill is not perfect, but readers rally to his defence because most of us can easily see how an originally unfair position may be tolerated over and again until one strategic act – touching the secret locus of control – causes a disastrous explosion.
At the end of the war, Bill must now share his home, even his bedroom, with a cousin who has spent his life invading Bill’s personal space. Kenneth has sought to take over Bill’s friends, won favour with his grandparents, charmed his parents and younger sister. All this has happened by the end of Book Two but in Bill’s mind, his parents and sister, his home and his own bedroom will be ahead to fill his future. That outcome is horribly changed, but he still tries to adapt and make the best of things.
Settling back after five years in evacuation and with an increased household causes a lot of work : constant queuing for the family food, and with Bill’s father not yet demobbed, learning to mend things and manage practical task. Kenneth does little or nothing. He draws and paints beautifully, sings and says all the right things, so avoids all hardships. He has gained a scholarship to an excellent school; Bill had no encouragement or support when he took the eleven-plus, and now Kenneth scorns Bill’s basic curriculum while he lounges on the most comfortable chair learning Latin declensions or Wordsworth poems.
This is just the background to the boys’ relationship. Naturally Bill seeks his own supports and escape activities and keeps these secret. It is when these are invaded by Kenneth and directly threatened that the climax of this series comes.
The fall-out is dramatic and pervasive. My aim was to make the reader keep thinking about the dilemma each one of the many characters now finds themself in, not to mention the future plans Kenneth and Bill must now consider.
A Relative Invasion is an apt title for the three books in this series, but in the planning of a Book Four, the two cousins now adult and war well over, “invasion” ends and “retribution” is more appropriate. The promise of personal and career success cannot blind the reader to a more sinister note trailing like smoke in the distance. And isn’t that true after war “ends”?