Book review: The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier

The Silver Sword
The Silver Sword

When I was young, the book I nearly read most often was ‘The Silver Sword’. It was on the shelves of every library I visited (and I visited a lot of libraries when I was young) and, because its author’s surname began with ‘S’ like Malcolm Saville, a favourite of mine, I’d always see it there, pull it out, read the blurb again and, always, decide, ‘No, I don’t think I will read this.’ I think what threw me was the disconnect between the title, which suggested magical realms and dragons and all sorts of things I loved reading about, and the blurb, which said it was about a group of children making their way through war-ravaged Europe. I was quite interested in the history of World War II, but I had no interest then in how it affected children. So, I never read the book. But now, seeing it in the library still in print after all these years, I thought I would try it.

Would I have enjoyed the story as a child? Probably, but it wouldn’t have become a favourite, one of those books I read again and again. Did I enjoy the book as an adult? Yes…

In some ways, the writing is clumsy; there’s quite a lot of telling rather than showing. But the story transcends the limitations of the writer and now, as a father, the thought of the plight of separated children affects me much more deeply than it would have done as a child. So, despite its limitations, I found the eventual reunion of the family after all their hardships very moving.


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