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Thunder and Lightnings – Jan Mark

May 9, 2015

TALBoy moves to village – lonely at new school but gets on with lonely boy who is shunned by others but lives a fantasy world of aeroplanes, especially ‘Lightings’ Their friendship helps them and the shunned boy comes out of his shell.

(Set in Norfolk, it features a developing friendship between two boys who share an interest in aeroplanes, living near RAF Coltishall during the months in 1974 when the Royal Air Force is phasing out its Lightning fighters and introducing the Jaguar.

Mark won the annual Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year’s best children’s book by a British subject. She also won a prize for children’s novels by new writers, sponsored by The Guardian newspaper.

Jan and Neil Mark moved to Norfolk in 1969 and lived “directly under a flight-path, with Lightning fighters from RAF Coltishall taking off 200 feet above the roof”. According to her obituary in The Guardian, she wrote her debut novel Thunder and Lightnings for “the Kestrel/Guardian prize for a children’s novel by a previously unpublished writer”, and won it.

When it appeared in 1976, Thunder and Lightnings seemed like something entirely new. It told the story of two very different boys who become passionately interested in the Lightning aircraft at a nearby RAF base just as they are being phased out. At the heart of the story was the friendship of Andrew, newly arrived in Norfolk (as Mark was herself), and local boy Victor, who has done the same project on fish every year, with no one noticing, but who nurses his private passion for aircraft so protectively because he understands the transience of such feeling and experience.

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