THE FLEET IN THE WINDOW by David Bergamini


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If mixed in quality, this is a generally engrossing novel of adolescence and war. Peter, 13, at its opening, is the son of a missionary doctor and plays half-guilty kissing games with Swedish Enid, on a beach in the Philippines. The war puts an end to this and separates them into predefined roles. Peter leads a photographer, Jerry, and his girl, Margo, to join the guerrillas. After a bloody skirmish, he returns to care for his mother and sister, exercising his franchise as a child and running messages to the guerrillas. Time passes, and Peter resumes the game with Enid, who is not interned, and whose father entertains Japs and Nazis. Finally, in a touchingly solemn extension of the game, he spends a night with her. On his way home, he is arrested, tortured and returned to the internment camp. It is there that he is tormented by a newly-profound religious sense of life's games and grandeurs, and there that Jerry, tortured and crippled (while Margo has been killed) explains to him that Enid's innocence is a way of accepting adult life. There is sentimentality, too much child-hero in this; but also a genuine power. Peter and the book are remarkable in that they convincingly, movingly, grow up together.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster