Kindertransport by Diane Samuels

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11 ‘HELGA pulls a mouth organ out of the case.’ – ‘The Runaway Train’ by Vernon Dalhart was an extremely popular children’s song in post-war Britain, and is the version most people know. It was regularly played on the BBC’s ‘Children’s Choice’ radio programme. Dalhart’s version begins with a prominent and distinctive mouth organ solo.

11 ‘What’s this doing in here?’ – Eva has kept a secret from her mother in her suitcase, and Evelyn has kept secrets from Faith in her trunk.

12 ‘A load of dolls fall onto the floor. None of them has any clothes on.’ – This creates a slightly odd, even unsettling, image, though it would be just like Evelyn to carefully fold and store Faith’s dolls’ clothes separately. The apparent ‘pile of bodies’, however, may be intended to symbolise the Holocaust, just as the ‘Runaway Train’ echoes the trains really used in the Kindertransport.

12 ‘Lucy?’ – It is as though Faith is re-discovering forgotten friends from her childhood. Many of those Evelyn cannot remember from her own childhood would have been killed in the Holocaust.

13 ‘a chain with a Star of David’ – One of the purposes of these gifts is for Helga to be sure that Evelyn has some things of value to sell in England; Helga also, however, is giving her ways of remembering her past: the ‘gold watch’ is her own, and the ‘Star of David’ is an obvious reminder to Eva of her religion.

13 ‘My grandfather used to wear a black hat and coat.’ – presumably to indicate his lack of interest in ‘display’ and wearing fine clothes. His costume resembles that of a rabbi, but there is no further suggestion in the text that this was his profession. Helga has adopted his view that the only ‘jewels’ worth keeping are one’s children and grandchildren. Ironically, though, she is sending Eva away.

13 ‘LIL enters.’ – She has come looking for Faith, sensing from Evelyn’s demeanour or words downstairs that something is amiss.

13 ‘You two have the quietest arguments.’ – Whether Evelyn and Faith’s disagreement could be called an argument is moot. Evelyn is eirenic almost to the point of complete self-effacement, and difficult to read as a result. She has been upset by Faith’s vacillations on the question of where she is to live; Faith, however, seems perfectly happy, only concerned that ‘upsetting mum’ has potentially spoiled ‘the start of [Lil’s] visit.’ Lil’s presence in the house is an important plot point given what happens later.

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Diane Samuels