First book in the trilogy A Relative Invasion
War threatens at the very shores of home . . . with ruthless Hitler in Europe and devious Cousin Kenneth at the doorstep.
Intrusion was trialled on the (now discontinued) Harper Collins writers site, Authonomy, where it won a full critique from their editor. Several thousand books were read by other writers and the extracts rated. If you got to the top of that several thousand list, you were on “the editors’ desk” and won their critique. Here is an extract from what they wrote about my book
HARPER COLLINS’ REVIEW
‘A Relative Invasion – Book I. Intrusion’ by Rosalind Minett
Tensions are brewing in England as World War II is set in motion. As the adults’ anxiety spills over into five-year-old Billy’s world, his own battle is just beginning. An only child, he longs for a playmate, and when his aunt, uncle and cousin move nearby, he thinks his dream has come true. But cousin Kenneth turns out to be darkly manipulative and a bully who haunts Billy’s days, though the adults see only his porcelain looks and flawless manners. With emotionally distant parents who can’t understand his plight, Billy latches on to the idea of owning the precious Cossack sabre of his father’s friend. This icon sustains him through the invasion of Kenneth, evacuation and the shock of war, but will it destroy as well as save him?
Minett weaves a powerful and compelling narrative with strong and relatable characters, and offers an evocative portrayal of England’s war-time home front. Billy is immediately sympathetic and Minett perfectly captures a child’s viewpoint, adding a gentle and honest humour to the story. The mounting tensions between Billy and Kenneth parallel the rising agitation in Europe, and make the underlying manipulations of war more understandable to children. In terms of dialogue, it rings true both between the children and strained conversation of the adults. The author is deft in capturing that sense of tightly controlled emotions in the parents’ characters and in the act of showing, not telling. The scene where Billy’s mother ‘wields the wooden spoon viciously round the edges of the bowl’ is a great example.
There is good pacing between chapters, and the build-up of tension is managed well. Beginning the chapters with news updates helps to orient the reader and reinforce simultaneous narrative of what’s happening in Billy’s world and on the home front. The portrayal of family relationships is very well done and throws light on what attitudes and values were like in 1930s England – Billy’s mother greeting his father at the door and taking his briefcase; tense, sideways comments about jobs and money; and the sense of social and familial obligation. This and the war’s tension is offset by the humour that comes through when seeing it all through Billy’s five-year-old eyes. His misheard expressions – ‘jelly face’ for ‘angelic face’; ‘Nasties’ for ‘Nazis’ – add a warm comedic element. The pivotal scene where Billy and Angela find the Cossack sabre is very effective – it foreshadows the violence about to erupt in Europe, and shows through Billy the human impulse of both the reverence for the weapon but also the temptation to use it impulsively.
It was runner up in the Yeovil Novel prize that year. More recently, it was awarded a B.R.A.G medallion (Book Readers’ Appreciation Group USA)
In 1937 five-year-old Billy meets his cousin, the idolised, frail and manipulative Kenneth. As the adults worry about war emerging in Europe, the slow burn of a fateful rivalry develops between the boys. With emotionally distant parents, bullying uncle and manipulative cousin, Billy starts to stutter. Now there is more for Uncle to criticise and Kenneth to mock. The one thing that upholds Billy’s spirits is the Cossack sabre, owned by his father’s work colleague. Once seen, never forgotten, the sabre becomes an icon of power – but possibly, destruction.