This book gives an incredibly fresh, well-written perspective on the experience of Jewish immigrants to London in the 20th century. Unlike many books based on family records, this is no 'quest' story. The unassuming author rarely intrudes on the narrative, and instead lovingly traces his grandfather's life - from east end barrow boy to high society man - using a rich archive of moving family letters and memorabilia. There is great stuff here about the history of underwear, the experience of londoners during the Blitz. Those interested in immigration and what it means to be English will also find much to reflect on in the Earl's story, and lots of resonance with today's contemporary debates.
Bought the book to read as my Book Group book. Very well received by all and discussion lasted for several hours. Story of Henry and Miriam Freedman who grew up in the East End of London and their progress through the years - Henry from barrow boy to an 'English' gentleman, moving from working class to middle class and eventually moving in high society culminating with him and Miriam meeting the queen.
An excellent book and also social history from the turn of the [last] century.
Henry Freedman was an iconic product of his time and place and his grandson Andrew Miller, bureau chief of the Moscow office of The Economist, writes the story of his grandfather's life as an early 20th-century poor child of eastern European Jewish immigrants who fled the pogroms for the safety of England. The book is laced with affection and understanding, but manages to retain an objectivity as it examines Henry's struggle to rise in the rigid British society of the time and both make his fortune and achieve gentility. As the ex-wife of one of Henry's sons, I am profoundly grateful to Andrew for helping me to understand much about my ex-father-in-law that was incomprehensible during my marriage and also for reminding me vividly of the England that I grew up in; one that now hardly exists any more. Full disclosure of the relationship in no way diminishes the value of this review; the book is highly readable and very informative. Henry becomes someone as real to the reader as he was in real life,and very loveable, though at times one might disapprove of some of his actions and attitudes. Really worth reading.
This is an astonishing read - a warm and engaging personal narrative inspired by extraordinary original material which transports the reader into a different culture and era. Reading this book has given me a hunger to understand all the details of my own family's history and to make sure that they are never forgotten. I couldn't put this book down.
This is a beautifully written book. Having Jewish ancestry, I was immediately drawn to the subject matter and was not disappointed. It portrays perfectly how immigrants strove for assimilation, whilst providing a fascinating account of London life during the war and post war years.
A must read if you are nterested in the jewish history of London's east end. I could not read the book fast enough in the beginning but nearing the end I became a little tired of all the facts. Nonetheless well worth a read.