Friday, March 10, 2023

Book Review: Torpedoed by Deborah Heiligman

Goodreads Overview:

A true account of the attack and sinking of the passenger ship SS City of Benares, which was evacuating children from England during WWII.
Amid the constant rain of German bombs and the escalating violence of World War II, British parents by the thousands chose to send their children out of the country: the wealthy, independently; the poor, through a government relocation program called CORB. In September 1940, passenger liner SS City of Benares set sail for Canada with one hundred children on board.

When the war ships escorting the City of Benares departed, a German submarine torpedoed what became known as the Children's Ship. Out of tragedy, ordinary people became heroes. This is their story.

Jacque's Review:

My son is not a fan of fiction, so he selected this as one of his choice books for English class. I was familiar with the story of the Lusitania, which was a British passenger ship that was sunk by a German torpedo during WW1. This story is even more heart wrenching because a large number of the passengers on the City of Benares were children trying to get out of England during WWII. Families thought they were doing what was best for their children by sending them Canada, which was not being impacted by the war, but they ultimately would have been safer staying at home. 

Throughout the book we are introduced to several of the children, chaperones, staff on the Benares and the rescue ships, and even some of the German soldiers who were responsible for the attack. Much like watching the Titanic movie, the reader becomes attached to some of the children as they take in the luxurious surroundings and endless amounts of food, which was far from what they were used to in their war-torn country. We learn some of their personal backgrounds and expect the main characters to be rescued and live happily ever after. In some cases that happens, but in many cases it does not. The narrator gives detailed accounts of what it was like throughout the entire ordeal from the perspective of the participants, so the reader feels like they are part of the story.

What is different about this book is that it is NOT historical fiction. It is based upon letters, current interviews of survivors, recordings of interviews with survivors, information found in the war museum, etc. It provides a glimpse into the lives of the people who were involved in this horrific event and what they were thinking and feeling at the time. While it is appropriate for middle school readers, my son's high school English teacher recommended it. I found it to be very educational and something that should appeal to readers of all ages.

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