Top positive review
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Fascinating look at life in post-war East End of London
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.