Author: Ray (Raymond) Evans
Publisher: The Book Guild Ltd.
Source: from the author in exchange for a honest and unbiased review
(from the cover) "During World War Two around three and a half million British children were evacuated away from possible air raids in the big cities in one of the largest social upheavals Great Britain has ever seen. One of those children was Ray Evans."
The author of Before the Last All Clear, Ray Evans, contacted me personally to ask if I would consider reading his memoir of his days as an evacuee in Britain during World War II. I read the first chapter and decided, yes, this is one book I would really like to read.
We meet Ray and his family before the evacuation is ordered, just long enough to determine the likes of people they are, hard working, strong family people; when the order to evacuate their town of Liverpool is given. Families were split up, fathers called to serve in the war, older brothers too; children were often sent on their own to the billets of families willing to take in a child or two during the war. This is when Raymond is evacuated to the South Wales town of Llanelli. In 1939, at the tender age of six, Raymond's world is torn apart.
The first two homes Raymond comes to dwell in are not welcoming nor desirable by any stretch of the imagination. From one extreme, living with a zealous cleanliness obsessive person who never wanted to bring a child evacuee into her home and did so begrudgingly as her husband wanted to, to moving in with a bit of a lush whose home was a breeding ground for cockroaches, Raymond experiences the most unkind of people and circumstances. Through his own determination, he is finally moved to the first of three loving homes wherein he developed into the man he is today.
Six years away from his family...six years hiding in bomb shelters as the air raid sirens blared and German war planes roared overhead...six years of growing up during the war. Imagine more than three million children evacuated and moved in with strangers, without even the comfort of their mother as the sirens blare and bombers fill the skies above. Ray Evans tells his story, Before the Last All Clear, as he experienced these horrific historical events, all from the eyes of a child. To say this would have a detrimental effect on anyone, is an understatement. Ray's story speaks of horror, mistreatment, disillusionment, sorrow... and happiness. It is one that we should read to gain a better appreciation and understanding of the sorrows of war, that we may appreciate the land of freedom that we know. It enlightens us and brings a new understanding of what others still may be and certainly are enduring in their war fraught home lands.
As in The Ruby Tear Catcher and The Day Before the Berlin Wall, both novels I have recently read that share stories of another world, a world of war and contention, one which most of us may never blessedly have to experience; Before the Last All Clear invites an opening of the mind to circumstances beyond our personal experience, and an opening of the heart for those who have endured the worst of the worst. Appreciation for the land we live in and the freedoms afforded us because of the sacrifices of our ancestors, our loved ones and friends, who daily fought the battle for freedom, is renewed when we read just such a book as Before the Last All Clear.
Rated 4/5 (caution for sensitive readers: some profanity)
In memory of those who lost their lives in what will forever be remembered as the tragedy of 9/11, I pray that we will give pause to thank those who sacrifice their health and well being and sometimes their very lives for the freedoms we enjoy. May God bless them in their service to us all.