Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2005.
Source: Melita Historica. [Published by the Malta Historical Society]. 8(1980)1(86-87)
CH. B. GRECH, Umbrelel fuq tas-Sliema: Tifkiriet tal-Gwerra, Malta, Klabb Kotba Maltin, 1979, 196 pp. + 32 pp. illus., £M1.75.
An autobiographical account of life during the Second World War, this work has its sociological value as well. The book is written in simple direct language which easily makes the reader picture the events taking place The statistical notes in the appendix are to be appreciated.
However, one cannot but help noticing that, notwithstanding the authorís many reminiscences, he fails to mention, among noteworthy events, the award of the George Cross to Malta in April 1942, in particular how this award was received by the people at large. I'm quite sure that news of this award did reach Sliema, so why the hush-hush? Also, I'm sure that the dates given for Carnival Sunday and Passion Wednesday of 1943 - 15th March and 1st April-have been mixed up since they're too near each other. One has also to point out that after all the minute details given - including heart-warming ones of old Aunt Kami kissing all the holy pictures when going to a makeshift 'shelter' during Malta's first air-raid, and of men sleeping at their homes fleeing to the shelters in panic and in their underpants after a rude awakening by bomb explosions - we are suddenly told on page 169 that the author had had a new baby brother. Since babies do not grow on trees, I fail to see why this fact was not even mentioned before. After all, showing how a pregnant mother under war conditions coped with a family of two boys and a husband after just having had another son killed would have enhanced the value of the book.
The book is neatly printed at the Lux Press. However, the spelling of some Maltese words such as mit for mitt (hundred) and kulmeta for kull meta (whenever) - to mention a few examples - is debatable and certainly not common usage. I presume that the blank pages on pages 24 and 158 denote main divisions in the book. If this is so, a note in the foreword should have explained such a [p.87] division of the subject-matter since unwary readers can easily think that they have a damaged copy on their hands.
On the whole, this book is worth reading and Mr. Grech deserves a pat on the back for producing this welcome addition to the literature on civilian life in Malta during four of the most terrible years in the history of our islands.
Joseph F. Grima