A Hoxton Childhood - A S Jasper
People of the abyss!

Many books have been written about London's East End, and whilst `Hoxton Childhood' can never hope to match Jack London's `People of the Abyss,' Jasper's book is authentic and the existence was actually lived hand-to-mouth for years and years. London, dressed as a pauper, observed the people of the East End and went back to a comfortable hotel to pen his observations. He did this for two months. For Jasper, this was his life, watching his mother pawn everything for the next meal or the rent while his father somehow always found enough money for the next bottle of beer. Most Saturday nights ended in a fight, forgotten the next day, but for me some of the more shocking recollections involve people pawning the bedspread for booze money.

Jack London was a phenomenal writer. His agonised diction, ferocious accusations, bursts of saturated intensity and brutal narrative are second to none. In contrast A.S. Jasper writes without a single call for commiseration or pity. He tells his story in low voice and never backs down from the truth. And it is this which draws the reader in.

How many more childhood deaths or young men lost overseas can one family take? Yet still they survive. I don't know whether this epitomises the British bulldog spirit or whether this stoic and dispassionate attitude is inherently bred in East London genes. A bit of both, I suspect. Yet where would we be without those people who absolutely refuse to cave in when common sense screams that there really is no use trying anymore?

No money, no food, no shoes and a drunken and deplorably pathetic and inadequate father. Wouldn't you be tempted to think, "What's the use?" Not this family. Without a word of complaint they climb out of bed every morning and somehow find a way to make that one day work. And it is this which keeps the reader turning the pages.

A well-deserved five star.