The Castles and the Fletchers are driving back through France to Calais and stop for a picnic. They leave in a hurry in their two cars, and Peter Castle is left behind. The parents have traffic problems and get different ferries so they don’t realise their mistake until they reach England. Peter, meanwhile, decides to make a go of being stranded, finding things he can eat, lighting a fire and trapping fish, avoiding the local farmers. His father returns to France and mobilises the police who eventually find him.

The point-of-view shifts between the characters to create a nice balance of tensions, heightened by the communication problems of different languages. Peter faces up to his situation, and deals with his fears, mostly by recalling the advice or example of his father and grandfather. There is a subplot of the friendship between Mr. Castle and Mrs. Fletcher whose husband has just run off with his secretary, but this is suitably resolved and is the only thing which comes between the boy and his father when they are reunited.

Tim Golden is a computer programmer in London.  This review first appeared on