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on 19 May 2011
The cover and the title of this book grabbed me by the throat. It says it all - well, nearly all.

Like the author, I grew up in post-war London, with the city still in ruins and strict rationing putting any luxuries and many essentials almost out of reach for most households.

Unlike the author, my family lived in a fairly decent, modest house, and ate frugally.

Jackie Hyams' family lived in a mean, damp wreck of a house on a bombsite, in one of the shabbiest areas of London, but dined on the finest foods and wore expensive clothes, while an army of unofficial servants catered to them. Extraordinarily, while Jackie's father was able and willing to provide anything that the family wanted, he never considered buying a house in a better area, so they continued to live in squalor. His nefarious business dealings in a world of bribe and favour would colour her view of life for decades to come.

Despite the differences in our upbringings, so much of what she writes strikes a cord within me. She recalls the horrors of the Liberty bodice and smog, the delights of Virol, and the novelty of the first televisions - black and white, with fuzzy, juddering white lines.

Doted on by her glamorous, cheerful mother, and over-protected by her boozy, illegal bookie father, young Jackie was a rebellious, spoilt little girl. She takes the reader on a nostalgic trip to the London of the bleak fifties and the swinging sixties, through the eyes of a girl with an enquiring mind, growing up and yearning to discover life outside her claustrophobic environment.

Recommended reading for anybody interested in the social history of London in the years following the end of the war. I really enjoyed it.
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on 4 July 2011
Bombsite and Lollipops tells the story of the author's childhood in Hackney, north-east London, in the years following the Second World War: an age of shortages, rationing, queues, power-cuts, cold and all-pervasive greyness. She grows up in a slum scarred by bomb damage, in a flat in a block with a stinking rubbish chute, but the life that she and her parents lead is way out of the ordinary. Her father, known as Ginger Sid, is a street bookie with a string of shady contacts - he and her mother at one point attend a party given by the Krays - and the family eat well (thanks to the Black Market), dress stylishly, employ a cleaner and a baby-sitter and are driven in a Daimler when they go for outings or for seaside holidays.

The author has some harsh things to say about her own past selves: the solitary bookish little girl with a penchant for showing off in public, and the rebellious teenager who, determined to get out of Hackney, opts out of her Grammar School and heads for Soho and abroad. She comes across, however, as a spirited and plucky character, with the resilience that her mother showed in coping with an alcoholic husband down the years, and the reader may readily discern - both in the stroppy, impressionable child, and in the sarky adolescent - the makings of the writer she is set, at the end of the story, to become.

I myself thoroughly enjoyed this memoir, which should appeal to a wide audience. For older readers, much of it may have the lure of a trip down memory lane (Ah, yes, those sachets of sherbert ... farthings ... the ineffectual Ascot water heater ... Liberty bodices ... smog ... the 1947 freeze ...) Younger readers, who might be disposed to see this evocation of a past age as the stuff of fiction, will benefit from the writer's skilful pointing, throughout the book, to the many differences, social and domestic, between then and now. But readers young and old should enjoy the pace, wit and detail of an unusual and engaging story.
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on 29 July 2011
I found the book particularly interesting, because I didn't know much about the black market. It was shocking to hear how men like Jackie's father Ginger benefited from illegal food and money when thousands where starving. I thought it was funny how they lived in a run down hackney flat when he had so much money. This perfectly reflects the era of living for the here and now. The book is beautifully written, funny and sarcastic. Your feel like your in the 1950s and 60s living and expericing all she writes about. An interesting read which I would suggest to anyone who enjoys british history, and a good autobiography.
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on 28 February 2012
There are several disappointing reviews that might put people off; so I have written this, simply to show its real merits.
Other reviewers seem uncertain how to describe the daughter of Molly and Ginger, the authoress, Jackie. Is this an 'ordinary' childhood'? Is she just a 'spoilt kid'? Is this a case of sheer selfishness - ',me'? No it is none and all of these.It is actually a very truthful story of a child's growth to womanhood and independence in a bizarre post-war poor neighbourhood; a privileged, affluent family dependent on a father whose money came from the wrong side of the law and whose friends were often 'undesirables'. Ginger is an illegal bookie's runner and Molly the typical 'dolly bird' of the 50's.
Jackie and her friends present the thoughtful reader with challenging questions about education, morality, family relationships,adolescence and chastity. The answers emerging in the story reflect pre-sixties 'liberation' but are close enough to present the dilemmas facing a generation living across those years.
To suggest that the story is boring can only reflect a reader either careless enough to simply focus on each set of events or unprepared to 'read' the fascinating sub-text that emerges from practically every episode that Jackie describes. An attentive reader will find a central character who, in her storytelling, virtually presents the body-language you might find in a film. I am just a few years older than Jackie. The portrait of the period is clear, vivid and stimulating. The book is the difference between a primary source and a secondary source. If you want a detailed history, buy a history book. If you want to feel and understand what it was like to live in immediate post-war cities, you will find no better book on the shelf especially towards the end.
Just one tiny criticism: Jackie is a journalist and there is something slightly sassy in the selective journalistic nature of the narrative. Strangely, for me, the control in the later chapters is enhanced by that selection. This is a relaxing and informative read.
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on 24 May 2011
Through this intimate portrait of her family's life in Shacklewell Lane, Hackney from 1945 to the 1960s Jacky Hyams has managed to create a revealing piece of social history. She recollects a time when Londoners lived cheek-by-jowl in multi-occupancy flats, where filling a bath meant hours of boiling kettles on the stove and where visiting a doctors without having to pay for the privilege was a wonderful new invention.
But as well as skilfully charting this momentous time of social change, just as compelling are the expertly sketched larger-than-life characters who make up the writers family. There's dad `Ginger', a boozed-up illegal street bookie who does business in the pubs round Petticoat Lane. Mum Molly, a glamorous `pocket venus' who, thanks to hubby's line of work, dresses like a Hollywood star while the neighbours scrub about in rags. There's Molly's sour faced mother-in-'law and Ginger's crew of bookies runners who duck and dive furtively taking bets. There's even a party with The Krays! When bookmaking goes `legit' in the early 60s and Ginger and his crew struggle to make a living faced with competition from the likes of Ladbrokes, along with some disastrous gambles, things start to crumble for the family. Sickened by her dads increasing love of the bottle and their violent rows, Jacky's escape route comes through a course in Pitmans Shorthand and typing and the discovery there's life up west in Soho's colourful coffee bars and beyond...
Moving and honest, I can't recommend this brilliant London memoir more highly.
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on 6 August 2013
I was looking forward to reading this as I enjoy reading about the era covered by the book but there were not enough details of what was actually happening in London in the 1950s & early 1960s. It was a long boring read written by an author who went from being a spoiled brat of a child to being an ungrateful, self-centred teenager with no respite for her parents in between. I have no doubt that the author found it very cathartic to write the book as it maybe helped her to appreciate how annoying she was whilst growing up. I certainly would not recommend this to others as there are so many better written books on similar subjects available.
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on 17 August 2011
Can only agree with your other reviewers; this was an excellent story, well-written and full of insight into the shady world of post-War London. I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in post-War social history.
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on 25 January 2013
after reading about a quarter of the book I deleted it. I found it really boring. I read lots of these types of books and this one didnt rate with me at all.
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on 20 October 2011
An easy to read book that shines the light on a young girls childhood that is sheltered but a little traumatic due to her fathers somewhat possessive nature and shady lifestyle. Quite a good insight into life after the war for those that had the readies and connections. Sometimes though, one is left wishing there was a little more information as the book is so simply written that you are left feeling that more elaboration would have been nice. But, on the whole, I did enjoy the read.
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on 5 February 2013
Bought this to revive some memories of childhood but was nothing in this book that I remembered. Found it boring and tedious and struggled to finish it. Must wonder if author actually lived in the east end in the fifties!!!!
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