Five Boys About the book

The novel begins with Bobby, a young boy from Bethnal Green, being evacuated. Like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, the school’s headmaster leads Bobby and his classmates up and down the streets of east London before putting them onto coaches, then trains, which carry them off into the countryside.

In Devon, the old woman who takes Bobby in has no experience of children. She just prays that no catastrophe befalls him before someone who actually knows what they’re doing comes along. But as time passes she and Bobby find each other to be perfect companions. The only fly in Bobby’s ointment is the gang of local lads up in the village who welcome their new arrival just as they would do a Nazi spy.

The village is full of odd and sometimes unsavoury characters – the overweight Post Office mistress, the arthritic vicar, the old sea captain and the feckless Howard Kent. But what the inhabitants don’t yet realize is that their community is about to undergo much more significant invasions, not as they fear by the Germans but, first, the Americans who’ll use the nearby beaches to rehearse for the D-Day landings and finally by a mysterious bee-keeper who has Pied Piper ideas of his own.