Monday, September 1, 2014

A Review of 'London Calling' by Edward Bloor (Audio Book)

"Martin Conway comes from a family filled with heroes and disgraces.  His grandfather was a statesman who worked at the US Embassy in London during World War II.  His father is an alcoholic who left his family.  His sister is an overachieving Ivy League graduate.  And Martin?  Martin is stuck in between-- floundering.

But during the summer after 7th grade, Martin meets a boy who will change his life forever.  Jimmy Harker appears one night with a deceptively simple question: Will you help?

Where did this boy comes from, with his strange accent and urgent request?  Is he a dream?  It's the most vivid dream Martin's ever had.  And he meets Jimmy again and again-- but how can his dreams be set in London during the Blitz?  How can he see his own grandfather, standing outside the Embassy?  How can he wake up with a head full of people and facts and events that he certainly didn't know when he went to sleep-- but which turn out to be verifiably real? 

The people and the scenes Martin witnesses have a profound effect on him.  They become almost more real to him than his waking companions.  And he begins to believe that maybe he can help Jimmy.  Or maybe that he must help Jimmy, precisely because all logic and reason argue against it.

This is a truly remarkable and deeply affecting novel about fathers and sons, heroes and scapegoats.  About finding a way to live with faith and honor and integrity.  And about having an answer to the question: What did you do to help?"

Who knew that an old radio could change everything?

This was an amazing book to listen to.  It includes history (although probably not 100% true history), mystery, and a hint of spirituality.

Martin has dreams where he travels back in time to 1940.  There, he meets Jimmy Harker, a boy who has come to him for help.

I got a strange satisfaction whenever Martin would emerge from a dream and then fact check what he had learned.  When the details of the dream checked out, I was doing a little happy dance for him.  History can be exciting, you just have to find a way to make it exciting for yourself.  When I went to the Minnesota History Museum with my fifth graders,  the volunteer leading us explained to the kids that history is just a series of stories from the past.  This wasn't groundbreaking information for me, but the description was one I'd never heard before.  'London Calling' proves that this description is true.  Martin spends time taking pieces of a story and putting them together in such a way where they make sense and check out factually.  That's largely what made this book so exciting for me to listen to.

The characters were lovely, although sometimes their interactions perplexed me.  Martin and Margaret had a great relationship, but it seemed to be a very business-like relationship.  Maybe it's the age difference, but Margaret seems to be too nice to Martin.  It's weird that sibling rivalry, even a small amount, was just... absent.  What was even more strange was how Martin's family treated his father's alcoholism.  It was an annoyance and definitely a source of tension, but they didn't seem to do anything about it.  Martin's dad did what he wanted and his family did nothing but strike deals with him when they actually saw him.  "Don't drink this weekend and you can have as much as you want afterwards."  "Let me tell you about the dreams i've been having and then you can get hammered."  It was also weird how quickly and easily Martin's father gave up drinking at the end.  All of a sudden he dumped half a bottle of liquor down the drain because he didn't need it any more.  It's strange.

I love that there was an emphasis on the effects of a family reputation on an individual.  Just because your father drinks or your grandfather was an over-celebrated war hero doesn't mean you'll be the same way, for better or for worse.  We control our lives, not our pasts.  I think it's great to know this.

Overall, if you like historical and fictional mysteries and you are looking for an engaging read, this could be the book for you!

I give 'London Calling':
Thanks for Reading!


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