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Looks and Smiles [Paperback]

Barry Hines
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Mar 2005
Mick Walsh, the protagonist, is a good kid who happens to be at the wrong time in the wrong place. He wants to learn how to be a motorcycle mechanic, but bad luck, inexperience, and tough economic times prevent him from getting a job. At a disco one evening, he meets and dances with Karen Lodge, whose future is similarly bleak. She works in the local shoe shop and the pair hang out with Mick's buddy, Alan, who joins the army and ends up in Northern Ireland. As ever, Hines avoids sentimentality and tells it like it is, without ever relinquishing hope and sympathy.

Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Pomona Press; New edition edition (1 Mar 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1904590098
  • ISBN-13: 978-1904590095
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,295,751 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Looks and Smiles 10 Jun 2004
A gritty social commentary about teenagers growing up in the late 1970's and early 1980's in a working class suburb of Sheffield. At the time the city was on it's knees. The steel industry had been in severe decline since at least the early 1960's and the brutal Thatcherite economic policies seemed to be the last straw. The consequence was a protracted and severe malaise hanging over the whole city. One of who's characteristics was acute juvenile unemployment manifesting it self in a deep sense of hopelessness.
The characters in the book are victims of their circumstances. They try desperately to lift temselves from the mire but with an ever increasing sense of despondency as their efforts are constantly thwarted. Inveitably "the devil makes work" for idol hands and eventually there is a degree of mischief.
You'll laugh and you'll cry with this book. It describes a harsh reality. It's fiction but it is genuinely close to how we lived and felt. I should know I was there. There were no oppertunities. If you wanted a realistic chance of working you took Tebbits advice and left home - sometimes for ever.
Sheffield is a vibrant city once again having begun re-invent itself in the 90's as a centre of sport and culture. Civic pride is gradually being restored. We have a great sense of humour and we love the Full Monty - you have to laugh about tragedy because otherwise you become consumed by it. It's nice to know the cloud had a silver lining....
A great book, I will read it again and again. And by the way I did come home to Sheffield but it took a few years......
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book of the times 25 April 2012
By J.I.S.
I read "Kestrel for a Knave" many years ago and enjoyed it immensely, so I was wondering if "Looks and Smiles" could follow such a hard act: it did and in spades. Set in the years around 1980, it is wonderfully evocative of these hard times. We hear of austerity measures today, but sometimes forget that things were so bad around 1980 that street lighting was reduced and sometimes switched off after 1030pm, not to save energy but simnply because local authorities couldn't aford to pay for the electricity. The words "cut backs" applied to everything and affected every walk of life.

Hines manages to capture not just the history of these times, but the attitudes and thoughts of the people, without making it so depressing that you want to stop reading - quite the reverse, he engages the reader from the first word and pulls them along through the story with consummate ease. His ear for dialogue is finely tuned and his eye for detail is unerringly accurate. The characters are well-rounded and completely believable. My only criticism (and the reason for giving 4 instead of 5 stars) is the ending which is so abrupt that I kept turning over pages, expecting (and hoping for) more. Perhaps this was the effect he was looking for, but I found it disappointing and very frustrating.
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2.0 out of 5 stars a missed opportunity of a novel 29 July 2014
By steve
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"a missed opportunity of a novel in many ways" "The main character Mick is inconsistent" "some of the writing is good... at other times it is truly awful." full review at: http://stevek1889.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/sheffield-novels.html
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