An Australian immigrant looks back over a colorful lifetime in this debut memoir.
Saffron was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1948; his Polish mother met his father, a British soldier, in Germany. After the war, they married and settled briefly in Scotland before relocating to the military town of Catterick Garrison in England, then on to Bielefeld, Germany. Saffron remembers his early childhood vividly, including an incident when he threw his mother’s cabbage rolls on the floor. As a boy, Saffron attended a seminary in Paris, and he delighted in quaffing red wine while flying to the French capital. Later, the family moved to Australia; the author would join the Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, which led to service in Vietnam. He later spent time in Johannesburg, where he worked as a “glorified bouncer.” Overall, this memoir reads like a series of boisterous, casually linked anecdotes: “I’m going to start at the beginning, of course. ’Makes sense, doesn’t it? I’ll finish at the end, if that’s OK with you.” This confrontational style is pervasive, and not without a glib charm. Saffron seems to know his limitations as a writer—“Anyway, that’s my lot. I’ve bored you enough,” he writes, long before the end—but he also seems to be aware that his tales have the power to captivate. The memoir ends with numerous photos and short treatises on such subjects as PTSD, philosophy, music, and literature. Regarding the latter, he notes that “if anybody gets a laugh or two out of this [book], then I would have succeeded.” This memoir will raise an occasional chuckle as it takes readers on far-flung adventures. However, a couple of thoroughly unpalatable moments are posited on Jewish stereotypes: While describing an employer, Mr. Levy, he writes: “I found out a bit later that he was a Jew and was very, very tight with his money and didn’t have a charitable bone in his fat body”; later, he tells of castigating a Polish train conductor for charging him an expensive “Jewish rate” of currency exchange.
Unruly, unapologetic, and sometimes arduous.