Carrie's War

Carrie's War
Carrie's War cover.jpg
Cover of first edition
Author Nina Bawden
Illustrator Faith Jaques
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Children's historical novel
Publisher Victor Gollancz Ltd
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 160 (first edition)
ISBN 978-0435122027
Recommended reading age 7+.[1]

Carrie's War is a 1973 English children's novel by Nina Bawden set during the Second World War. It follows two young London evacuees, Carrie and her younger brother Nick, into a Welsh village. It is often read in schools for its literary and historical interest.[1] [2] Carrie's War received the 1993 Phoenix Award and has been adapted for television. The 2004 TV film of Carrie's War is rated 7.3 stars out of 10 on IMDb[3] and the 1974 TV series 8.5.[4]


A frame story has Carrie visiting the town as a widow with three children. She tells the children what happened thirty years before.

Carrie Willow and her younger brother Nick are evacuated to a rundown mining town in Wales during the Second World War.[5] After a traumatic difficulty in finding a family to foster them, they stay with a shopkeeper, Mr. Evans, who dominates his gentle but weak younger sister, whom they call "Auntie Lou". Another evacuee whom Carrie has befriended, Albert Sandwich, is staying at a dilapidated country house called Druid's Bottom with Mr. Evans's older sister, the dying Mrs. Dilys Gotobed, and her disabled cousin, Mr. Johnny Gotobed.[6] Their English housekeeper, Hepzibah Green, is reputed to be a wise woman. Carrie and Nick become friends with Albert and Johnny and spend a lot of time there. The housekeeper tells the children many tales, including one about a curse on Druid's Bottom, which will be activated if a mysterious skull is removed from the house.

It is revealed that Mr. Evans has been estranged from his older sister, Mrs. Gotobed, after she married a wealthy Englishman whose family owned the mines where their father was killed in an accident. Carrie is caught in the rift between the brother and sister. Despite almost universal contempt for Mr. Evans, Carrie gives him a chance and sees that, beneath his rough exterior, he genuinely is a well-meaning man, who became embittered with the world due to his hard life and the feud with his older sister, to whom he was once very close.

When Mrs. Willow comes to visit them, they say nothing about their dislike of Mr. Evans, as they do not want to leave. Mrs. Gotobed assures Hepzibah and Mr. Johnny that they can continue to live in her house once she has died, and that she has made a will saying so. Carrie only meets Mrs. Gotobed twice before she dies, and Mrs. Gotobed asks Carrie to tell Mr. Evans that she has never forgotten him, despite their feud. Hepzibah and Albert tell Carrie that despite Mr. Evans's firm belief that Hepzibah is cheating Mrs. Gotobed out of money, she is in fact penniless.

On Carrie's birthday, Albert kisses her as a present and she is delighted. Auntie Lou, meanwhile, becomes friendly with Major Cass Harper, an American soldier, keeping this secret from her brother, who would not approve. When Mrs. Gotobed dies, Albert is sure that Mr. Evans has stolen her will so that he can turn Hepzibah and Mr Johnny out of his deceased sister's house, despite there being plenty of evidence that Mrs. Gotobed had made no will – only mental deterioration led her to believe she had made one. Johnny and Hepzibah will be homeless after a month's notice, as the house has become Mr. Evans's property. Carrie does not want to believe this of Mr. Evans, seeing him as an honest man. Albert, on the other hand, is convinced that Mr. Evans has destroyed the will, and becomes even more adamant after he realises that a ring which Mr. Evans gives Carrie as a present had in fact belonged to Mrs. Gotobed.

However, Carrie changes her mind about Mr. Evans after Albert vaguely recalls seeing an envelope in Mrs. Gotobed's jewellery box that disappeared after Mr. Evans visited the house to take an inventory of his late sister's belongings. This envelope, Carrie believes, was Mrs. Gotobed's will, and she too thinks Mr. Evans stole it to ensure that he would inherit everything. To prevent this from happening, she throws the cursed skull into the horse pond. Mrs. Willow arranges a new home for her family near Glasgow, and so the children prepare to leave, with mixed feelings. At the same time, Auntie Lou departs to marry Major Harper, leaving Mr. Evans alone. Carrie later learns that Mr. Evans is innocent after all: the envelope in fact contained nothing more than a childhood photograph of Mr. Evans and Mrs. Gotobed, which she had left him. Mr. Evans bought the ring he gave Carrie as a present for Mrs Gotobed in their youth. As the children leave by train, they see that Druid's Bottom is on fire. Carrie is guilt-stricken, believing it is her fault for casting out the skull.

Thirty years later, Carrie's children discover that Hepzibah and Mr. Johnny are living in a converted barn at Druid's Bottom, having escaped the fire. Albert Sandwich still visits them. Mr. Evans, grieving and lonely, died long ago.

Awards and nominations

Carrie's War won the 1993 Phoenix Award from the Children's Literature Association as the best English-language children's book that did not receive a major contemporary award when it was originally published twenty years earlier. The award is named after the mythical bird phoenix, which is reborn from its ashes, to suggest the book's rise from obscurity.[7]

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

Carrie's War has been adapted twice for television by the BBC, first in 1974, and then again in 2004. The original 1974 version starred Juliet Waley as Carrie, and Rosalie Crutchley as Hepzibah. The more recent 2004 BBC television film version (broadcast in America on PBS – Masterpiece Theatre in 2006) starred Keeley Fawcett as Carrie, Alun Armstrong as Mr Evans, Geraldine McEwan as Mrs Gotobed, Eddie Cooper as Albert Sandwich, Jamie Beddard as Johnny and Pauline Quirke as Hepzibah. The second remains available on DVD, distributed by Acorn Media UK.[8]

A stage adaptation by Novel Theatre ran at Sadler's Wells in 2006–2007 and had a successful West End run starring Prunella Scales in June–September 2009, despite mixed reviews. One of them notes plot similarities with Gothic fiction and John Buchan's 1912 story "The Grove of Ashteroth".[9]


  1. ^ a b Carrie's War in schools Archived 8 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Carrie's War - BBC Schools Radio 2016 on demand
  3. ^ Carrie's War Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  4. ^ Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  5. ^ For an account of various effects on evacuated children, see the 2011 Guardian article "Children of the wartime evacuation". Retrieved 28 September 2019. Other novels treating this include Joyce Cary's Charley Is My Darling (1940) and Noel Streatfeild's Saplings (1945). Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  6. ^ Johnny seems to have cerebral palsy, but his disability is not named in the novel.
  7. ^ Description of Phoenix Award. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  8. ^ Acorn site. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  9. ^ Guardian review. Retrieved 28 September 2019.

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