In this revealing memoir of childhood, the author shows not only what affected his family, but also reveals a large slice of social history concerning the lives of all ordinary working-class people struggling to live in the slums of the East End of London in those pre-Welfare State days. He writes with sympathy, and sometimes anger, of the overcrowded houses with families of anything up to eight children, as his own had, living in just two or three rooms with outside W.C. and water tap; of the reliance on charity and the soup kitchen for food; of trying to eke out what little income they had by buying stale bread and cracked eggs or other cheap food from the many itinerant street sellers.
Yet this is also a chronicle of what was a turbulent time in British history, and especially in the East End, with its then still large Jewish and Irish populations. So here too is an eyewitness account of the Depression, and of the provocative marches by Sir Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists through the area, culminating in the Battle of Cable Street that saw the marchers turned back by the efforts of Jewish, Irish, communist and socialist protestors. Above all, however, Norman Jacobs writes with affection of the area and its extraordinary mix of peoples, as well as the now-vanished aspects of everyday life, such as the music hall, the two-valve radio, and the first Cup Final to be played at Wembley.