In 1942 Secker and Warburg published a novel by first-time novelist Fred Clayton under the pseudonym Frank Clare entitled The Cloven Pine. Described as a “remarkable first book” by E. M. Forster, The Cloven Pine depicted German boys as creatures to be pitied and loved, as much victims of the Nazis as the British and in need of rescuing. That Secker and Warburg were willing to publish such a controversial work when Britain was at war and in very real danger of being defeated demonstrated the sanity, civilised nature and tolerance that still existed in British society at that time.
The main character of The Cloven Pine, Götz, was based on a real life boy who lived in Dresden. Fred would go on to marry the boy’s youngest sister, Rike in 1948. Andy March, the author of Dreams of Dresden is their grandson. He had the privilege of visiting Dresden in 2000 with Rike (after Fred’s death) – her first visit to the city since she’d left over 50 years previously. When he came to Coventry to become a vicar in 2012 he discovered the journey of reconciliation that had taken place between these two former enemy cities that shared the horrific fate of destruction through bombing. He visited Dresden in February 2015 for the 70th anniversary commemorations of the bombing with a group that included the Bishop of Coventry and current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. This visit was the catalyst for Dreams of Dresden, which forms a sequel of sorts to The Cloven Pine, and its underlying message of reconciliation has particular resonance for these turbulent times.