“The Way to London” by Alix Rickloff is very much a relationship story with the backdrop of World War II. Instead of having the military aspect the author concentrates on how the civilian population endured the war. It is the flip-flop Cinderella story about a rich girl and poor boy.
The book starts out in Singapore in 1941, just three months before Pearl Harbor, where the population is still free of any concerns. Lucy Stanhope, the granddaughter of an earl, is living a life of pampered luxury in Singapore until one reckless act will change her life forever. Exiled to England to stay with an aunt, she barely remembers she sees the devastation first-hand as the Nazis blitzkrieg London. Her companion, Bill, a 12-year-old boy, journeys with her as both escape the English countryside heading for the city. She hopes to meet up with a Hollywood producer as she seeks fame and fortune, while at the same time helping Bill to find his mother. In the course of their journey, they encounter a soldier, Michael, whom Lucy originally met in Singapore, He takes on the responsibility of getting Lucy and Bill safely to London.
What stands out in this story is the stark difference between the social classes. The have-nots are unable to enjoy a normal meal and cannot escape the ravages of war. On the other side are the haves who are able through their privilege and money to still experience some comforts.
A powerful quote hammers the point home: “I suppose I felt almost criminal eating in one meal enough ration points to serve a family of four for a month…You know just this afternoon, I was watching them pull bodies out of a collapsed building. Now, hours later, I’m in a world of caviar and cocktails.”
But the author also makes the point that, regardless of class, the English people had a determination and grit to defeat the Germans. Whether it is sending their children off to the countryside to live with total strangers, or to endure the constant bombing while trying to live as normal a life as possible, readers understand why this was called the “Greatest Generation.”
“They had a quiet resolve with an all-out effort to win the war,” Rickloff said. “I am not sure this could ever be replicated. Everybody felt honor bound to do their part and pull their weight and make the necessary sacrifices. WWII is the catalyst that sets all three characters on their respective journeys. I wanted to explore how they had to get through the everyday indignities of war, what the citizens had to go through. Despite all the violence and sorrow, what gave them the ability to cope?”
Yet, Lucy is not seen as part of that group until the middle of the book. In the beginning, she is a self-indulgent young woman desperate for attention, a spoiled brat who is an outsider always looking in. But as the story unfolds she grows and becomes a caring and responsible person.
“The Way to London” is a journey taken by Lucy to find her way and place in the world. Bill and Michael show her that there is more to life than being a prickly uncaring individual, and help her along the way. Through them, she finds her happily ever after.