“If you close that door on me, it’ll be murder.”
“No Mr Brand, it’ll be justice.”
Will Of The People is a Lord Of The Flies-esque allegory for this infantile political era – asking what would we think if children behaved just as badly?
Will is a friendly teacher who lets his class call him by his first name, and who he collectively calls the People. On a school trip, they are travelling in a coach through a Spanish mountain tunnel when an earthquake leaves them trapped. Within their new world, when Will becomes ill, the children have to take charge…
Will of the People is a difficult book to categorise, on the one hand it's an exciting, albeit dark at times, story for children. It's also a biting, occasionally humorous political allegory. This means of course it can be enjoyed by a wide audience, although I suspect the further to the right your political opinions the less you'll want to read it...
The story opens with a coach load of school children from England and their two teachers, on a trip to Andalucia, caught up in traffic after a small earthquake had brought down a tiny part of the tunnel they are in. Their frustration soon turns to terror as a massive earthquake causes the tunnel to collapse. Many of their fellow occupants are instantly killed and with his fellow teacher unaccounted for, it is left to Will Folk to try to restore calm - but Will's foot is trapped under a large rock. Taking advantage of Will's predicament, class bully Tom and some of the other children leave the coach in search of food. Fortunately a young but emotionally advanced young lad, Dani remains on the coach and administers first aid to Will. Eventually he is freed but badly hurt and barely mobile he is unable to stop Tom's gang from leaving the coach to set up camp elsewhere. Away from Will's compassionate and sensible guidance they are easily manipulated by those that prefer to lead using divide and conquer tactics.
What follows is a gripping story of two rival groups of children battling to survive not only the conditions in the tunnel but also each other - and themselves. The frequent aftershocks, precarious rocks and debris, poor air and limited resources would be enough to cope with but add in monstrous egos, violent aggressors and a need for something in their lives, even if that something leads to hatred and bloodshed, and before long Will, Dani, his best friend, Asad and their friends face an uncertain future at the hands of those who should be working with and not against them.
I never felt the political allusions detracted from the flow of the story, some were lighthearted, "you kip", while some had a darker humour to them, and I enjoyed trying to work out if certain characters represented more well known political figures. The strongest and most poignant allusions were at the more distressing points of the story however, and shone an uncompromising light on the way those seen as different, particularly refugees are treated, and how people are manipulated to believe they are more threatened by those who have very little than those who have power. In some ways it's quite a bleak story, as with our turbulent times there are no easy solutions and not everybody is willing or able to reflect on their behaviour and examine their beliefs. However, it's not entirely without hope, the humanity shown by Dani and Asad in particular show that there is still good in many people. We are reminded too that even what seem to be the coldest of hearts has the capacity to change.
I'm mindful not to give the impression that Will of the People will only appeal to those interested in politics. While I think an awareness of this 'alternative facts' era is useful in really appreciating David Hurst's intentions, this is still a cracking story. It's tense, dark and has a few surprising twists. I think it would also really appeal to older primary school children who enjoy well structured stories where kids of their own age drive most of the action. As with all good stories they may even learn something and consider what sort of world they want to shape. Will of the People is a book for the people, young and old.
Will of the People can be purchased on Amazon. Follow David Hurst on Twitter as @DavidHurstUK and @FolkTalesEU
About the author
David Hurst is an author and prolific freelance writer published in British national newspapers & magazines; as well as in Spain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland, USA & UAE. He also helps people with addiction and relationship problems on a voluntary basis. David is married to Debs and a hands-on daddy to his amazing two little boys.