This is the first of my book reviews. You’ll not find any commercial Best-Sellers here, as I’m sure such books are likely to have no end of reviews and a generous marketing budget to aid their sales and popularity. What you will find are mainly self-published works along with those published by some of the smaller, less known publishing houses; some only in e-book format and others in both e-book and print formats.
Whilst not commercially published in the traditional way, all the books reviewed here certainly compare favourably with any you might find on the shelves of your local bookshop… I hope you find these reviews helpful.
Take Him Away by Ron Piper (QueenSpark classics)
There are now three generations for whom the Second World War is little more than a lesson in history, or the subject of quaint old black and white films. But what of the day-to-day lives of those who lived through it, and the sense of spirit and adventure it engendered amid the bomb, danger and uncertainty?
For a light-hearted and entertaining account of a by-gone era, one would be hard-pressed to do better than ‘Take Him Away’. Set against the backdrop of the war, Ron Piper’s book is a humorously written collection of reminiscences and witty anecdotes, some funny, some sad, but all providing a fascinating insight into period of history, seen through the eyes of an innocent seven year old boy, progressing, with increasing daring and wonder, to the age of sixteen.
Another old man writing his life story, I hear you moan? When I first learned of this book, I too was inclined to think the same, but nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, it is a life story which abruptly ends at the point which Piper identifies as the beginnings of his life as con, in and out of prison for most of his life. What we have here is one young man’s steady progression to a life of crime, a life which he himself describes as wasted.
Throughout the book, Piper’s vivid portrayal of the hardships and brutality of the times bring to life an era most of us can only imagine. In some ways this could almost be placed in the ‘rites of passage’ genre, taking the reader through Ron Piper’s childhood phases: the mischievous pranks of a seven year old with too much energy, those first tentative explorations of the opposite sex, the slow moving away from childlike naivety to gradual adult awareness, right through to the adolescent’s need to stand tall in the eyes of his peers:
“It was only when I heard gossip that Mrs. So and so was ‘having it away with a yank’ that I began to understand. Even then, what hell was she having with a yank still puzzled me…”
“Any male in civilian clothing and sporting a moustache was to us none other than Adolf Hittler himself. One Hittler we followed, and we must have followed many…” On a darker note, through those adolescent years, one can almost see the foundations being laid for the life-long career of crime to which Ron Piper would progress. He does not attempt to lay blame or to judge the milieu of the time. Whatever part the environment or his up-bringing may have played in the future course of his life, this book is not an apology for it. Nor is it an attempt to justify it, just the simple portrayal of life as he experienced it. Through his wit and no-nonsense style of writing, the seven year old Ron Piper transforms the devastation, the people dying and the horror of the times into one of excitement and adventure, an opportunity to let the imagination run wild in that magical way that only the innocent imagination of a child can achieve.
‘Take Him Away’ is an extremely sharp, often funny and nostalgic account of the war as seen through the eyes of a child, but also a social commentary of how people coped, of loyalty and non-judgemental observations of the times. Well worth reading!