Customer Review

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best London books you'll read, 24 May 2011
This review is from: Bombsites and Lollipops: My 1950s East End Childhood (Paperback)
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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