MOTHER KNEW BEST by Dorothy Scannell


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The years immediately before and after The Great War were the time when social scientists and humanitarians all over England were discovering the appalling destitution and crowding of London's notorious East End slums. But to read Dorothy Scannell you'd think it was the jolliest place on earth. A sprightly grandmother, she wrote this fond memoir (her first book) at the tender age of 63. Father, mother and the ten kids were poor but happy. Sometimes it even seems that they were happy because they were poor. Father who was a red-hot socialist had the fierce pride of the English working class -- ""I got the impression from my father that all aristocratic men were disease-ridden and all possessed bald-headed wives because of rich food and wine they consumed."" Jellied eels with parsley sauce, towels made of father's old shirts, the barrel organ outside the public house, the peddlers' stalls where you bought a wild rabbit for supper and a ha'porth of pot-herbs for flavoring -- it was all fun. She even makes it sound as though taking father's best suit wrapped in a brown paper bag furtively down to the pawnbroker was an adventure, as was fetching home the disinfectant that the borough gave away free if you brought the bottle. Life was lived with no complaints and no real distress on father's two pounds a week and even if you suspect it was not quite the idyll Dolly recalls, there's no denying she brings this fish-and-chip nostalgia to life.

Pub Date: March 11th, 1975
Publisher: Pantheon