What a wonderful read this book is! My first thought was “it’s huge”. And it is in every way! I could almost recognise some of the places he described, and the account of the bomb was much like my Mum’s recollection of the one that blew her windows out (or in).
But any kid growing up in London around that time could associate with life lived just like that. You can smell the Woodbines.
Having said that the book would appeal to anyone with an interest in social history. Well told and unputdownable.
I loved it and look forward to reading it again slowly. (Barry Evans)
What an utterly engrossing account of so many different aspects of the first chunk of Robert’s life. Written with panache but never overdone, it strikes just the right note. (Carolyn Thomas-Coxhead)
My Dad’s a Policeman is an astounding book! I am enjoying it so much that I have to ration myself to a few pages per day as I don’t want to get to the end too soon! (Dick Spall)
It amazes me that writing of such high calibre should have been difficult to get published, given the amount of dross on the market.
It’s brilliantly written and bears out Robert’s delight in language. The images and expressions sparkle off the page and bring the subject alive in every line.
On top of this, Robert is so honest about himself; his failings and doubts are presented with naked candour, but one also admires his strength of character and his determination to endure the most gruelling situations, many of which he sought out voluntarily.
Having been a Secondary school teacher myself, his experiences of teacher training, probation, inspection and so on, ring sharply true.
Although he was born only 14 years before me, less than a generation’s difference, his experiences were so much harsher than my own. Life was so much harder then but I enjoyed the same range of childhood freedoms as Robert, freedoms denied today’s kids. (Richard Crawley)
I recently spotted My Dad’s a Policeman in the window of my local bookshop, so picked one up without any fuss – a lot of book for £9! When I looked into it at home, I didn’t put it down for several hours – transported back into the hard world of my first memories. The book really covers a lot of ground and is an excellent record of growing up in those different times. (Martin Parrish)
….totally absorbing. (David Hinkin)
I was staggered at the clarity of Robert’s memory……he has a unique turn of phrase that is very engaging and gives life to his work.
It brought back to me just how much freedom children had back then. Today parents would be terrified of there being a paedophile around the next corner and never allow a child such an opportunity to get up to mischief.
It was an excellent recollection of the time and very worth reading. (George Dyson)
I absolutely loved My Dad’s a Policeman. For the last couple of years, I have read almost exclusively diaries, memoirs and autobiographies, usually those dealing with the 1930s, 40s and 50s, and especially the war on the Home Front, because I want to know what real people felt and thought and did during this period, not fiction and not even secondary histories. And I have to say that, of all the work that I have read, including all of those Mass Observation books, papers collections by recognised authors suck as Simon Garfield, and unedited diaries by writers such as Molly Panter Downes, Nella Last and Jean Pratt, this book by Robert Druce has been one of the most enjoyable. And I enjoyed it for two reasons.
First, and most importantly, it was authentic. I could tell he was there, he knew it; he smelled, saw and tasted it. This passage could only have been written by someone who had experienced the Blitz, “Everything that had not been ruined by filth and the rain, or looted in those first few hours, they packed in borrowed tea-chests and orange-boxes from the greengrocer, ready for the removal van. His mother never saw her best cutlery again ……. some of his toys, and those of his own books not ruined by the rain, had vanished.” Gas masks that “farted”, families that shivered in shelters where the father had “painted the walls and lined them with trellis, to keep anyone from leaning against the condensation that streamed down them.” Robert had been there. Anderson shelters, burnt out buildings, warm summer days, funeral gatherings of older relatives, boyhood fumblings, a smelly National Service barracks, boiler rooms and school corridors and rooftops, his eye for detail was incredible, his feeling for the period unsurpassed. And it was not just the descriptions of the war that were so authentic. So were his observations on human interaction: his strained relationship with his father, his coming of age with the girl at the woodland fishing lodge and, perhaps most poignant of all, the way in which he betrayed his first love and never found the same passion in his later marriage.
And that takes me to the second reason I enjoyed it so much. His writing is so deliciously rich and rewarding. Over and over I was saying to myself, yes, you describe it perfectly. Many times, Maxim Gorky’s “My Childhood” sprung to mind in the way his words were so evocative and delightful to read. “Whenever he creaked open the doors of the kitchen cupboard at Rectory Farm, its secret smells poured out and caught him by the throat. Lamp oil, floor polish, acetylene, soap: even the newspaper that lined the shelves was rank with it.” I knew exactly what he meant, I could smell it myself. “Summer heat hung stilly over the cobbled yard, haze of dust and pollen, and the meadows were hissing with grasshoppers.” I was there! Referring to an abandoned shop window he writes, “The bright crêpe-paper window-dressings faded and sagged in winter fogs and the fumes of cooking from the living-quarters at the back. Bluebottles fizzed in the window for a day or two in summertime and lay there, lodged against the glass with their toes turned up.” How richly described. Of course he was a wordsmith himself. That was plain from the outset. English literature gripped him from a very early age, as it did me. Referring to Louis MacNiece’s poetry, “he recognised in that hot brilliance of sensation a habit of imagery familiar enough, but as yet still sicklied o’er, in his own pale cast of thought—and, God, there it was ,,, in Macbeth, in a witch’s cauldron of clotting light and ambient air clinging and gelatinous, roping like blood.” Oh my, such beautiful prose not just from MacNiece and Shakespeare but also from Robert Druce. Also evident was his almost prodigious imagination that enabled him to describe in such a unique way the adult world around him in the puzzled remembrances of a very young child. I was riveted from the first paragraph. (Boyd Gray)
An amazing book. (David Moss)
……..beautifully written. – A remarkably detailed recall of boyish hopes, dreams and fears and a very relevant portrayal of the difficult and disillusioning social world of 1945. I simply could not put down some passages remembering the clash between the high hopes of schooldays and the reality of a world that was itself in transition after the war. (Ron Clements)
As a description of school life during WWII, the book could hardly be bettered…… a compelling read and quite heart-rending in not hiding the truth. (Terence Atkins)
It is much more than a personal memoir. It is more like a profoundly moving coming-of-age novel, although it begins with fascinating details of very young childhood… (James Pankhurst)
….a right riveting read (Malcolm Glass)
….a wonderful piece of literature. It is searingly honest as it matures in perspective from the kaleidoscope of impressions during the pre-11-plus years; the dawning of disillusionment with adults during adolescence; the further acquaintance with the absurdity of the National Service experience, university and teacher training experience, when one sees, teaching from the other side; the dawning of sexual awakening, the obsessiveness and possessive nature of first love and its consequent fragility and bewilderment at its cancellation, and the stumbling into a first marriage in the knowledge that it is not quite the same thing. (Peter Oliver)
What impressed me most about this book was its basic honesty about things religious, social and sexual which sometimes we might talk about after several glasses of wine, but don’t usually write about! It’s a very good example of this little bit of Essex social history of the period, and the key role that parents play in education. (Ted Cocking)