Title: Chocolate Soldier
Author: Hazel Barker
Major Themes: Blitz, Conscientious Objectors, England, Quakers, World War II
Synopsis: Because he could not reconcile his beliefs in loving his enemies, as Jesus commanded, with killing people, Clarence Dover became a conscientious objector during World War II.
I was intrigued when I saw Chocolate Soldier, the story of a Conchie, or Conscientious Objector. You don’t often see a book with that sort of topic. I grew up in a church that believes in nonresistance, but this book is about a man in England who developed that kind of convictions on his own, without a church that believed in it.
Clarence Dover believed that God literally meant what He said in the Bible, to love his enemies and pray for his persecutors. He could not justify taking a man’s life, for any reason, not even in war. Because of these firmly held beliefs, he declared himself to be a conscientious objector. Accused of being a coward, he held to his beliefs despite opposition from nearly everyone around him, including his father, brother, sister—and sweetheart. He was finally given permission to do something to help the war effort other than join the armed forces, and chose to enter the Friends Ambulance Unit. Immediately after his training, he was sent to London to rescue people injured in German bombing raids during the Blitz; after that ended he went to India and China for the duration of the war.
This true story is very moving. I was quite engrossed throughout much of the book. The chapters about the bombing in London during the Blitz were especially emotional. I had never read anything that gave such a personal view of that time. I did find some of the later parts of the book a little more slow-moving; they seemed to be quoting almost verbatim from, probably, diaries or letters. That’s understandable, however, because the author used Clarence’s diaries, letters, and recollections to finish the manuscript he had started about his life. Hazel Barker, the author, by the way, is married to Clarence’s nephew.
I highly recommend this book for anyone interested at all in conscientious objectors, or for those considering entering the armed forces. It is also quite a different look at World War II than most books you’ll read.
I received a free ecopy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
WARNING: Human body parts are mentioned in places during the bombing, and the temptations facing soldiers away from home are alluded to. It could be used as a family read-aloud with just a little censoring.
Listening Level—Ages 10 – 12, Family Friendly
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults