“Woodruff is fast becoming a national treasure … [he] is one of the last survivors of an age which has almost vanished from memory.”
“A terrific story with an archetypal rags-to riches dimension. It is nostalgic, vivid and charming.”
“Edifying and well written … Woodruff’s writing is fresh, vivid, honest and intelligent.”
The year is 1933, the depth of the Great Depression. William Woodruff, sixteen years old and passionately idealistic, arrives in East London hoping to get a job in an iron foundry. In a run-down house in Bow he finds lodgings with a Cockney family, sharing a single bed (head to toe) with the son – a simpleton of a stonebreaker.
Life in the foundry is grim but William is indomitable. The grueling work on the foundry floor sharpens his political ideas. He decides to 'get some larnin', pursuing his studies at night school. Finally he wins a scholarship to Oxford University.
Instead of a promising academic career and a happy married life, the Second World War intervenes, consuming six years of his life.
The concluding description of returning from war to meet the son he's never seen - is deeply moving.