BETHNAL GREEN by Michael Fisher


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This is a young surgeon's novel about life in a slum area in London, and about who lives with his parents, a married sister Betsy and her husband Jim, in an old house in a neighborhood of pubs and unsavory characters. They are an affectionate family, but Ricky, who has had an education and now works as a clerk in a department store, and Jim, with a wife and baby, want money to escape their harsh surroundings. They become involved in a plan to rob the department store, but Jim backs out at the last moment, and the gang burns his truck in revenge. Ricky, who has fallen in love with a wild, scrawny girl named Cat, now wants out too, and helps Jim fight back. But Jim is wounded in the fight, and Ricky, filled with guilt, sets fire to himself accidentally. After a bout in the hospital, plastic surgery, and another fight with the gang, he nevertheless joins them again, helps commit the robbery, then runs away. Ricky permits the gang to beat him up- and thereby finally earns his freedom.... All this is realistically and warmly told, and the characters are generally believable, but the odd relation of Ricky to the gang needs more explanation. There are perhaps too many good and valid themes here- so that despite clean, good writing, and scenes, the total effect is not entirely clear.

Pub Date: Aug. 28th, 1961
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston