1937, South London, and the adults are preoccupied by threat of war in Europe. Billy’s begins when he meets his cousin, Kenneth. Smaller than Billy, although older, Kenneth is adored by adults for his porcelain looks, but he is a devious psychological bully. Frail and artistic whereas Billy is sturdy and well-meaning, Kenneth displays the same emotions that brought Hitler to power—envy over strength, desire for new territory. His invasion begins.
Through emotionally distant parents, bullying uncle, and manipulative cousin, Billy resorts to imaginary support, pretending he owns the precious Cossack sabre he’s secretly seen at the house of his father’s colleague. This icon sustains Billy through bullying, evacuation, hardships, and eventually, the dreadful reality of war. But could the sabre become a threat to his future? More unexpected challenges lie ahead, and Billy must learn to meet them.
“Every character in the novel comes to life under Minett’s insightful prose, but Billy takes a special place in the reader’s heart as he endeavors to make sense of the terrible things that have begun happening to him.”—Casee Clow, USA
“A powerful and compelling narrative with strong and relatable characters. (It) offers an evocative portrayal of England’s war-time home front.” —Harper Collins.