WWII, two boys, a fateful rivalry.
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1937, South London, and the Wilsons are too preoccupied by threat of war to notice their son’s Billy’s battle begin. They introduce him to his frail and indulged cousin, Kenneth. An only child, Billy is excited that Uncle, Aunty and Kenneth have moved to live nearby. Excitement soon changes to dismay when Kenneth proves to be a devious psychological bully. Seeing Billy’s sturdiness and material benefits, Kenneth harbours the same emotions that enabled Hitler’s rise to power: envy of strength, desire for new territory. His invasion of Billy’s world begins.
The adults only see the porcelain looks of Kenneth, his artistic talent and his charming manners, not his darker soul.
Uncle also resents Billy’s superior health and strength and sets out to bully and intimidate him. Billy develops a stutter, a good reason for adults to criticise and Kenneth to taunt.
Given his parents’ emotional distance, Billy is thrilled by the attention and support of Mr Durban, work colleague of Billy’s father, and even more so when he is secretly shown a precious Cossack sabre. Billy imagines that he can summon it to give him power. Soon he will need it even more for war begins and he is evacuated to the country.
Shocked by the poverty of the cottage where he is billeted, Billy nevertheless discovers new friendships and personal strengths. The icon of the sabre sustains him through the bullying, hardships, Kenneth’s manipulations and eventually, the dreadful reality of war. But will the sabre threaten his future, for unexpected challenges lie ahead?
“Every character in the novel comes to life under Minett’s insightful prose. . .” Casee Clow, USA
In an early draft, this book was runner up in the Yeovil Prize (novel section). It also won a full critique from a Harper Collins editor on their writers’ site, Authonomy.