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Recently Jones' Lord Richard's Passion dealt with the fortunes of England's aristocracy from Khartoum to the Great War. The image of the tenacious General Gordon hovers over this book too though Jones has turned his attention to the East End of London and a family from the working class. Charlie Wheelwright, a stevedore like his father and grandfather before him is born on Steadman Street in 1900. Seventy years later, having just surrendered his house to the high risers, he lies in the geriatrics ward of a London hospital awaiting his death. Charlie's house was the last to go but the heart of his neighborhood was removed when The Gordon, the corner pub, was demolished. All the events of the street were celebrated here -- births, weddings, wakes, jobs found and lost, elections, strikes, news of the Wars. But Jones' book is not just an exercise in nostalgia. He has a convincing sympathy for many different kinds of people. There's Charlie's wife, Ann, a plucky little trade unionist who, because she is very much her own woman, helps Charlie to be more of a man; his mother, Dora, widowed twice, a dreamer, whose easygoing ways are an exasperation to Ann; his sons, bookish Harry and fast-living Ted whose lives take vastly different courses; his sister, Vi, who would rather live in genteel poverty working for the rich than cast her lot with the working class. Jones romanticizes of course and his view is a sentimental one. The narrowmindedness, bigotry, coarseness and cruelty of a place like Steadman Street just do not catch his eye. Still, the way he writes it is the way we wish it were.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1974
Publisher: Simon & Schuster