Come Home, Kathleen / Kathy, Come Home!

  • Come Home, Kathleen –  Bunty: #1030 (8 October 1977) – #1052 (11 March 1978)
  • Reprinted: Bunty: #1626 (11 March 1989) – #1648  (12 August 1989)
  • Reprinted as Kathy, Come Home! – Lucky Charm: #9 (1980)
  • Art: Andy Tew

Plot

It’s the 1930s and Kathleen O’Connell lives in Donegal with her parents and six sisters and seven brothers. Life isn’t easy as they don’t have a lot of money but Kathy is happy with her family. Then her mother’s sister Therese arrives over from England with her daughter Emma. They propose to relieve the O’Connell’s burden a bit by adopting a child as a companion for Emma. As Kathleen is the closest in age to Emma, she is chosen.  When they arrive in London it turns out her Aunt  hasn’t been honest with her. The Laceys are actually struggling to keep their usual lifestyle and they expect Kathleen to work as a servant in return for taking her in. Kathy is very homesick but is unable to afford her fare back to Ireland, so she has to think of some way to get home.

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The Laceys are crafty, they try to keep Kathy happy so she will continue to work for by pretending they actually  plan to visit Ireland, in the Summer.  Kathy is also a happy when she makes friends with the next door neighbour an elderly Irish woman, Mrs Keneally. She finds her comforting and understanding of her homesickness.  Even with the Lacey’s servants gone and Kathleen doing all the work, Therese finds they still need more money. Their troubles increase when Britain goes to war. The Laceys have another way of exploiting Kathy as she has a gift for reading tea leaves. Kathy doesn’t like charging people and she is upset by the many bad omens.  Letters from home tell Kathy how much her family miss her and would like her to come home. Not wanting to worry her family she  doesn’t let them know how homesick she is and all the work she is expected to do.

Kathy is delighted when Mrs. Keneally decides to go back to Ireland and plans to sneak Kathy on the ship with her. But not long after departing the ship is hit, the old woman killed and the survivors brought back to England. Back with her Aunt and cousin life is getting more dangerous with the bombings in London, Kathy is very nearly killed in an attack. Kathy, Emma and other girls from their school are evacuated to the country. Kathy and Emma end up with a cruel woman Miss Jardine who works them hard, feeds them little and hits them. When Emma sees Kathy take a beating without crying, she begins to appreciate her cousin more and admires her courage. While Kathy wishes to complain about Miss Jardine to the teachers, Miss Jardine has scared Emma into staying quiet. More bad news arrives for Emma when her mother is killed in a bombing.

come home kathleen_02

While snooping around Emma finds something but before she can tell Kathy about what is is, Jardine catches her.  Jardine threatens her so badly that Emma believes she’ll be cursed if she says anything. When a plane bombs near the school, Emma nearly opens up to Kathy but ends up not saying anything.  Kathy investigates herself and is confronted by a big man and is poisoned and left helpless in bed. Miss Lewis comes home with Emma to check on Kathy and Kathy manages to blink S.O.S. to her. When she leaves Emma plucks up the courage to lock Jardine and the man in a room and help Kathy. The Jardines break out but luckily Miss Lewis had understood Kathy’s message and had gone to get the police.

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The Jardines had stolen a golden Egyptian sarcophagus from a museum and planned to sell it on. Miss Jardine had told Emma she had the Mummy’s curse upon her for disturbing it. The girls are relocated and even get a reward for the return of the precious item to the museum. When the war ends a few months later Kathy and Emma head to Ireland. Kathy assures Emma that her family will  welcome her into their home.

Thoughts

This is a good hardship story with things continuously getting more difficult for Kathy, (our upbeat protagonist) and obstacles in her attempts to get home. She is mistreated by relatives, she’s nearly killed several times, and has to deal with homesickness and  the war. While she shows courage and never lets events break her spirit, she can be quite naive at times. While early on she figures the Laceys are using her as a servant, whenever they act kind or promise a trip to Ireland, she believes them. Emma goes from spoilt brat – to losing everything and actually becoming close to Kathy. She is a good contrast to Kathy’s positive, hard working character and I like that her redemption isn’t rushed and she doesn’t change completely.

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The story is kept interesting with the changing settings, first Kathy just wants to earn her fare home, then the war makes a bad situation for Kathy worse. When her and Emma end up with Jardine as well as dealing with mistreatment, there is also a bit of a mystery about what Emma saw that goes on for a few issues. The story doesn’t feel rushed, but neither does it drag on too long.

One criticism I do have is about how much time has passed. Although this is meant to be set from just before the war to the end, the girls don’t seem to age that much in attitude and physically. I’d maybe believe 2 years has passed but not much more. Other than not ageing, the art is good throughout, Miss Jardine looks appropriately creepy and menacing and the settings from wartime London to the country side are well done.

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