Thank you so much to Catherine Ward and The Moth for inviting me to be part of the Blog Tour for The Hunt for David Berman, and for providing me with a copy in exchange for my honest opinion. I will be sharing my review and a fascinating guest post from the author, Claire Mulligan where she is sharing a behind-the-scenes glimpse into her life as a writer.
The Hunt for David Berman is a thrilling war time adventure that absolutely gripped me, and which I devoured in a single sitting. It is a heart-warming and powerful story of incredible courage found through the bonds of friendship and strength in family.
Robert has been evacuated from London to live with his Grandparents on the Scottish Coast. His father is fighting in the War, and his mother is in the Wrens. Finding it difficult to adjust from city to farm life, he is keen to explore the caves along the coastline, hoping to find the treasure alluded to by his grandfather, but instead he finds a boy, David, who has been living in the cave. David is a Kindertransport child who has run away from the cruel farmer he had been sent to live with, and is trying to survive on his own, terrified that he will be captured and returned to Germany and the Nazis.
David has carried something from Germany that he does not know about, and it is a secret that may well get him killed … something has been stolen, and a secret agent has been assigned to retrieve it for the Nazis, and he is hunting for a boy …
So begins an exciting, fast-paced adventure as the boys try to keep David a secret from his grandparents; as they find themselves in dangerous situations; as their suspicions are raised at strange sights; and, as they gradually become aware that one of them is being hunted …
The parts of the story which are set in the Gestapo Headquarters which give more insight into what has been stolen are chilling, and emphasise the very real danger that David will be in should be found.
Robert and David are incredibly sympathetic, well-drawn characters who show real strength and courage. They form a close bond of friendship built on trust, empathy and kindness. Even though they come from different countries, they find understanding through their shared experiences of displacement, separation from loved ones and grief, and each offers the other comfort when needed. I really enjoyed the part nature played in the story as these two city boys come to appreciate and explore the natural environment and, in particular, I loved the new friend that David makes!
This story gives a heart-breaking insight into the devastation that war has on families. David’s flashbacks to his life in Berlin and his journey to England are incredibly poignant as he finds himself at the mercy of a cruel foster carer, having suffered both loss and separation. Robert has also experienced separation and loss which he struggles to deal with, and witnesses how grief affects the mental health of someone he loves. I found the ending of the story incredibly moving, and thought it was a perfect close.
The Hunt for David Berman is an exhilarating, historical spy-thriller with friendship and family at its heart: a perfect read for fans of historical adventures of 9+.
Guest Post by Claire Mulligan
My Typical Writing Day
For me a typical writing day involves lots of procrastination. I might clean the fridge, hoover under the beds or empty the laundry basket before finally settling down to write. I don’t think that’s an unusual thing, a lot of writers hate looking at the empty page and the expectant flashing cursor so it’s no surprise I actively avoid starting. However, once the computer is on and perhaps a cup of tea is to hand, I can write for quite sustained lengths of time in one sitting. I write in the dining room – don’t for a minute think of a grand room with a long mahogany table, gleaming silver ware and candles – this space is actually a ‘through room’ meaning that every person (and dog) that lives here treks through it several times a day. It’s a less than ideal setting in terms of interruptions but it means I am on hand for all the things that motherhood brings including nice moments like cuddles. It has the advantage of having a wood stove in it so it’s a warm and cosy spot and it’s close to the kitchen for those all-important snacks.
I try to write a thousand words or more at a time but more often than not I don’t write on a daily basis so my word count is a sporadic thing – sometimes racing along and sometimes sitting sullenly at the same lonely spot for weeks on end. If it’s been while and I’m feeling a little twitchy about starting I tell myself I am only writing for half an hour, that way if half an hour passes and that’s all the time I get perhaps a couple of hundred words have been written, and that’s good enough. Or if half an hour passes and things are flowing it can then be stretched to an hour or maybe two. I rarely have the luxury of having a whole free day to myself to fill with writing so making time for those half hours and hours is really important. It can be a slow process and sometimes in the evening when the house is quiet, I will try to squeeze in a little work to try and push my writing along.
On the rare days when I do have a block of free time, I can write a lot in one sitting. That’s mainly because I spend quite a bit of my non-writing time thinking about my characters and what’s going to happen next. It’s a bit like having an over-active sourdough starter bubbling all over the place – it’s ready to go! Writing blocks do happen, though I try to counteract this by preparing a fairly detailed plot for the story to begin with. That plan is flexible as things inevitably change and morph as I write but at least it’s a bit of a roadmap to help when things get a little stuck. Another good trick is to end your writing day or session mid-sentence or mid idea, that way (in theory!) you can pick up where you left off. I sometimes write a whole chapter at a time and begin the next one only by a couple of sentences, and that gives me a jumping off point for the next time I open the computer.
In terms of inspiration, it really does come from anywhere! I try to be open to lots of influences and any little flashes of A Good Idea are immediately written into my notebook or failing that, on to my phone. Likewise with song lyrics, lines from poems, conversations (overheard or otherwise) – all can provide that important beginning point which can then lead in all sorts of fantastic directions!
Do check out the other stops on this Blog Tour: