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Victor Watson - Paradise Barn Series

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Victor Watson - Paradise Barn Series

Postby Anita Bensoussane » 03 Mar 2016, 10:51

This series was recommended to me by Tony and I've just read the third book, Hidden Lies, which comes after Paradise Barn and The Deeping Secrets. The fourth book is Everyone a Stranger and there's also a fifth title, Operation Blackout, which backtracks a few years and is a spin-off, having only a loose connection with the main series.

The books are set during the Second World War and revolve around three children/teenagers who are close friends - Molly, Abigail and Adam. Another boy called Edward features quite prominently too. They have a barn where they meet, near their village of Great Deeping, and they're drawn into mystery, intrigue and adventure related to the war. The books are well-written, being thoughtful as well as gripping, and the characters seem very "real". I enjoyed the first book but thought the second was even better - and the third one fantastic.

Hidden Lies, which I finished last night, was published in 2012. As it's set in 1944 details like food, clothes, currency, measurements and descriptions of planes are correct for the period:

"There were thick beef sandwiches, a jar of pickled onions, and a jug of milk."

"Enjoying a mug of cocoa..."

"In the suitcase that Molly brought there were shirts, vests, pants, trousers, socks, a mackintosh and two woollen jerseys."

"...came out again wearing a pair of grey flannel trousers. Long trousers."

"How do I order sand?" she said. "By volume? By weight? Or what?"
"Well," Willy Broadbent said slowly, "you can order by volume, cubic yards. But most people just order a cartload and we generally know what they want. But the best thing is to order it by weight."
"So should I work out how much sand I want by the stone?" she asked.
"Stone? No! Hundredweight, that's what we generally deal in."

"A brand-new Lancaster roared low overhead..."

"Halifaxes!" Adam shouted.
"And Horsas!" Edward shouted back.
Cassie couldn't tell a Halifax from a Tiger Moth, so she said nothing.


There are also references to putting "pennies" in a phone box and getting through to a "telephone operator", though I can't find those at the moment.

It's strange, because those are exactly the sorts of details that modern readers are supposed to have such difficulty understanding - according to publishers, anyway! In some children's books that were written in the 1940s but are still in print, such references have been changed, e.g. Enid Blyton's characters from the 1930s-50s now eat doughnuts, wear jeans and spend decimal money - and in The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage the Tempests have been altered to "jets"!

Hidden Lies also has an "Author's Note" explaining the significance of the D-Day landings (which are important to the story) and discussing 1940s scholarship schemes and wartime attitudes to female pilots. If a note like that can be included in a modern book which has a historical setting, why can't similar notes be added to modern editions of historical books?!
"Heyho for a starry night and a heathery bed!" - Jack, The Secret Island.

"There is no bond like the bond of having read and liked the same books."
- E. Nesbit, The Wonderful Garden.


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Re: Victor Watson - Paradise Barn Series

Postby Anita Bensoussane » 18 Mar 2016, 20:41

I've finished the fourth Paradise Barn book now, Everyone a Stranger. After reading the first three titles I said I thought each book in the series was better than the last, even though the first was very good - and I think the fourth is the best of the lot. It deals with the end of the war; with growing up; with change and loss and discovery. There are some truly startling episodes and some beautiful passages which took my breath away. We feel really close to the characters as they make their way, sometimes falteringly and sometimes confidently, in a society which is in flux, and we're treated to moving glimpses of the future.

I'd recommend this series to anyone who likes fiction with a Second World War setting - or to anyone who enjoys children's books with convincing characters and skilfully-plotted stories which keep you guessing and make you think.
"Heyho for a starry night and a heathery bed!" - Jack, The Secret Island.

"There is no bond like the bond of having read and liked the same books."
- E. Nesbit, The Wonderful Garden.


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Re: Victor Watson - Paradise Barn Series

Postby lizarfau » 19 Mar 2016, 08:22

I have ordered the first of these from the Book Depository. It should be here ready for me to read over Easter.
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Re: Victor Watson - Paradise Barn Series

Postby Julie2owlsdene » 19 Mar 2016, 09:39

That set of books sounds just my cup of tea. :D
8)
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Re: Victor Watson - Paradise Barn Series

Postby Moonraker » 19 Mar 2016, 12:15

They had better be good as I have just ordered the first four books!
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Re: Victor Watson - Paradise Barn Series

Postby Julie2owlsdene » 19 Mar 2016, 17:06

I'll order them next month when I get my pension. :)

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Re: Victor Watson - Paradise Barn Series

Postby Anita Bensoussane » 19 Mar 2016, 21:11

I hope people enjoy the books as much as I did! You'll be glad to know that steam trains feature frequently, Nigel, particularly in one of the stories.
"Heyho for a starry night and a heathery bed!" - Jack, The Secret Island.

"There is no bond like the bond of having read and liked the same books."
- E. Nesbit, The Wonderful Garden.


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Re: Victor Watson - Paradise Barn Series

Postby Machupicchu14 » 19 Mar 2016, 21:13

I'll certainly get those books! They seem interesting! :-)
All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love"
Lev Tolstoy


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Re: Victor Watson - Paradise Barn Series

Postby Tony Summerfield » 19 Mar 2016, 23:31

I bought Paradise Barn after receiving an email from Victor Watson three years ago telling me about the series. I read it and enjoyed it, emailed him to tell him so and then bought and read the next three books. I recently received another email from him telling me about a fifth book which I have now managed to buy, and I replied to him telling him about this thread on the forums. He came back to me and told me that he was thrilled to read the thread as he gets very little feedback on his books and I am delighted that there is now more for him to see. I hope those who have ordered the books will enjoy them, I am sure you will and I have the pleasure of the fifth book ahead of me.
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Re: Victor Watson - Paradise Barn Series

Postby Anita Bensoussane » 13 Apr 2016, 08:41

I've read the fifth book now, Operation Blackout, and it's another compelling read with likeable characters, plenty of tension and hard-to-predict happenings. The main characters are a girl called Hannah and a boy called Konrad, but Abigail from the previous books also features.

The only thing that confused me a little was the Cambridgeshire dialect spoken by some of the characters. I could understand it perfectly well as it was mainly a question of accent really, but I wasn't sure how to pronounce "do" written as "dew" or "you" written as "yew".

Also, in a couple of places there was a blank space in the text where a word was missing!
"Heyho for a starry night and a heathery bed!" - Jack, The Secret Island.

"There is no bond like the bond of having read and liked the same books."
- E. Nesbit, The Wonderful Garden.


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Re: Victor Watson - Paradise Barn Series

Postby Moonraker » 18 Apr 2016, 17:01

I am now reading (and loving) Paradise Barn. A really good read and a real page-turner.
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Re: Victor Watson - Paradise Barn Series

Postby Anita Bensoussane » 18 Apr 2016, 19:44

I'm glad you're enjoying it, Nigel! The second book in particular has elements that I think will appeal to you.
"Heyho for a starry night and a heathery bed!" - Jack, The Secret Island.

"There is no bond like the bond of having read and liked the same books."
- E. Nesbit, The Wonderful Garden.


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Re: Victor Watson - Paradise Barn Series

Postby Courtenay » 18 Apr 2016, 21:37

Anita Bensoussane wrote:The second book in particular has elements that I think will appeal to you.


Don't tell me they go on a pretentious herbal tea-drinking spree?? :D :wink:
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It was a nuisance. An adventure was one thing - but an adventure without anything to eat was quite another thing. That wouldn't do at all. (The Valley of Adventure)
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Re: Victor Watson - Paradise Barn Series

Postby Moonraker » 05 May 2016, 11:25

It did, Anita! I am on book three now and loving the series. Shades of Saville with the map at the front of each book. I also like the way more personal things are mentioned. A need to spend a penny in the night, a girl needing to disguise as a boy being concerned about her chest giving the game away. Unlike Enid, Watson doesn't shy away from bodily functions, and a night-time trip for the toilet even saved one character from being caught. They even take a chamber-pot with them when spending a night in a barn! Much is made of WWII as the stories are set around the 1940s. First class books.
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Re: Victor Watson - Paradise Barn Series

Postby Courtenay » 05 May 2016, 12:55

Moonraker wrote:Unlike Enid, Watson doesn't shy away from bodily functions, and a night-time trip for the toilet even saved one character from being caught. They even take a chamber-pot with them when spending a night in a barn!


I have to admit, as an adult re-reading some of Enid's books, I can't help raising an eyebrow at some scenes where one or more characters are locked up somewhere for hours and hours — for example, Fatty being in the cupboard all night in Missing Necklace — with, of course, no mention of what state their underpants (and the air in the room) may have been in by the end of it... :shock: :P
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