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World's End: A Memoir of a Blitz…

World's End: A Memoir of a Blitz Childhood

by Donald James Wheal

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This account of growing up during the Second World War in World's End, Chelsea, needs a far more serious, 'literary' cover to do the subject and the author justice. Truly! I was interested in reading about that part of London anyway, but when my copy arrived at the library, I thought, 'Here we go: another lightweight, 'family saga'-style self-published memoir', but no, Donald James makes this a truly emotional read. Perhaps because he's a 'proper' author, and not just an amateur spinning a cathartic tale, James' account is amusing, poignant, rewarding and endlessly interesting. I love how he describes his supportive parents, 'good' and 'bad' grandmothers, and the many other real life 'characters' from the World's End, with such fond memories that the reader almost believes that they knew these people too. Far from a series of personal vignettes, however, James' story is paced like a fictional adventure, with downed German planes and the air raid which wiped out a good section of his community. Even the history of Cremorne Gardens is fascinating to read! (Surely there must be more accounts of this 'infamous' London pleasure garden?)

Having lived through the Blitz, or even living in London, is thankfully not a requirement for enjoying Donald James' captivating memoir - thanks to the author's vivid descriptions and engrossing narrative, anyone can imagine the hardship, heart and heroism of World's End. ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Dec 10, 2012 |
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"Descended from rural immigrants, ladies of the night and bare-knuckle fighters, Donald Wheal's upbringing took place amidst grimy factories and generating plants, illegal street bookmakers, dog tracks, tenements and street walkers who plied their trade in Piccadilly and Soho. It was a closed community with its own internal logic and baffling feuds. So much so that his two grandmothers, who lived a hundred yards away from each other, contrived to never meet, even at their children's wedding, and the christening of their grandchildren." "World's End is the story of how he and his family struggled free from this underclass. It is also an individual history of the Second World War, of a small boy's grappling with the bitter separation of evacuation, the return to an already battered London, the wonderland of bomb-damaged houses to play in, and the nights of terror as the Blitz returned." "Then one night in February 1944 the World's End became the main target. This book is a record of some of the people who lived there. It is also the record of many friends who died there. On this night of widespread destruction his world did literally end - and with it his childhood."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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