© John Rowe Townsend.
Many of the books for children and young adults by long-time author John Rowe Townsend have elements of social strife: struggles of individuals against the system, or different classes between each other. In this one, he posits an England beset by financial disaster and runaway inflation, similar to what happened in Germany between the world wars. In such a time, all resources, particularly food, become scarce and beyond the means of nearly everyone. The Mortimer family is different, though, thanks to the foresight and single-minded drive of their father, who is determined to protect his family by secretly stocking his basement with enough supplies to last for a few years. What he doesn’t foresee are the many side effects of this plan, putting stress on the family, until some members turn against him, putting all of them in danger from looters, black market gangs, angry citizen mobs, and even the government itself. No one can be trusted, everyone is out for himself, and the Mortimer family is soon under siege both psychologically, and eventually, physically. Through it all, Dad refuses to budge from his convictions and plan, while all around him try to keep their lives from total disaster. This is a fascinating “what if,” and a chilling look at what happens when society breaks down. It’s also a suspenseful, exciting read. Recommended.