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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Friday, 12 July 2013

"Barnado boy" by John Clarke

John Clarke's mother gave birth to twins out of wedlock. Being only allowed to keep one, she chose the girl; John was taken into care by Barnado's. He spent his first seventeen years with them and was then apprenticed to the in-house printer at the Grosvenor Hotel.

This is the extraordinary rags-to-riches story of a remarkable man. There are a host of wonderful characters, from his mother, who can't resist an attractive man, to his step-father, a brilliant engineer who drinks. His life encompasses soldiering, running and losing his own printing firm, and a battle with mental disease.

The character of the narrator is also interesting. He is highly intelligent though rather diffident and a bit of a goody-goody. . He hates the unions! He is deeply religious, has a wonderful wife and fabulous children and he has an irritating habit of forgiving everyone (including the unions).

This is a classic story. It is slightly spoilt by the rather pompous dialogue which does not aspire to naturalism: it is made of grammatically perfect (including the use of 'whom' on one occasion) set speeches. It is definitely spoilt by the occasional spelling mistakes ('past-time' for pastime is repeated) which might be forgiven in anyone but a man who spent five years as a proof reader.

This fascinating life would make a great basis for a novel but it would need significant scaffolding and a much more fluid prose style. July 2013; 310 pages

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