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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A funny, charming memoir of a life throughly lived, 19 July 2013
This review is from: Jackdaw Cake: An Autobiography (Paperback)
This miraculous book describes, first, Norman Lewis' upbringing among eccentric and often insane relatives in Wales and North London, and second, his experiences as an intelligence officer with the Eighth Army fighting Rommel's Axis forces in North Africa prior to joining the Allies in Southern Italy.

If his early years come across like Cold Comfort Farm, then his war years are reminiscent of Catch-22, with nutcases for commanders and expected to implement the most lunatic of orders such as Yossarian would recognise.

To these pages comprising Jackdaw Cake Lewis later added a further 50 or so pages recalling his years living with his family in a village outside Rome. The expanded book was republished as I Came, I Saw. Whichever version you choose, you'll find the book to be funny, touching and vividly descriptive.

Buy this book then, but you may want to investigate some of Norman Lewis's travel writing first; as well as Italy and Spain, Lewis writes extensively about South-East Asia. Perhaps his best known book is Naples '44, in which he tells of his time as part of a team trying to administer an Allied-occupied Naples suffering from acute food shortages and the malign influence of the mafiosi who have quickly taken advantage the easy pickings that accompany an invading army.

My personal favourite is Voices of The Old Sea. In the 1950s Norman Lewis lived for several years among the villagers of Farol on Northern Spain's Mediterranean coast, recording a vanishing world of noble poverty, lives still governed by the world's natural seasons and rhythms, and practices and beliefs unchanged for hundreds of years. This prelapsarian tale of innocence soon to be traduced is wonderfully conveyed and utterly beguiling.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Weird Welsh Ways..., 9 Sept. 2012
A strange book. Not that this great author's prose is strange, just that his early upbringing was, as he "farmed out" to be brought up by three mad, or at the very least, extremely eccentric Welsh spinster Aunts, whose raucous feuding sometimes required the intercession of a male relative to reestablish some measure of parity and peace. As the author grew to love them, to adapt and mature, it fell to his lot in turn, to be the peacemaker. The jackdaw cake of the title was real - but it was a cake that the ladies baked weekly to feed to the jackdaws infestation - both indoors and out - of this weird household.
Eventually he was able to return to his parent's London home, to join them in their séances, table-knocking, trances and hosting the mediums of the fashionable afterlife. Small wonder that he soon grasped the opportunity of entering the war, as a Field Intelligence Officer, and to then launch his traveling life that led to his becoming a great author. This volume precedes his wonderful Naples `44.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another Gem, 26 Jan. 2015
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Nico (Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Jackdaw Cake: An Autobiography (Paperback)
Another gem from Norman Lewis. This book covers the authors early life growing up in Enfield with his eclectic spiritualist parents. A stint living with his extended family in Wales. The great depression, marriage and the war. The story is told with dry wit and great insight. A really terrific read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Travel Writing at its Best, 6 Jun. 2014
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Norman Lewis controls the narrative in this book, to make for a clever blend of autobiography and travel writing. This title came recommended to me by my tutor ( I'd read the back of an alka seltzer box if he told me to). When a book is quite this well recommended at Uni, it's almost definitely a good read and this is no exception. Lewis handles the wonderful descriptions of his Aunts with remarkable tenderness and really captures the spirit of the time and place: North Wales as a kid. It's everything I hope travel writing will be: warm, personal and truthfully atmospheric. Highly recommended, if it sounds good on the face of it...you'll probably enjoy it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great title, great book, 17 Dec. 2013
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This review is from: Jackdaw Cake: An Autobiography (Paperback)
Jackdaw Cake is a fantastic book: from Welsh spinster aunts to Sicilian Mafiosi in-laws, Norman Lewis's life was filled was fascinating characters. He also happens to be a really great writer.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Paperback autobiography Norman Lewis, 6 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: Jackdaw Cake: An Autobiography (Paperback)
Great biography from the excellent Norman Lewis
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 18 Dec. 2014
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A good introduction to his life
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 15 Nov. 2014
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This review is from: Jackdaw Cake: An Autobiography (Paperback)
Delighted
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Jackdaw Cake: An Autobiography
Jackdaw Cake: An Autobiography by Norman Lewis (Paperback - 20 Feb. 2013)
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