The second volume of Woodruff's memoirs starts with him having arrived in Poplar in the early 1930s. On spec he turns up at a steel foundry and luckily gets a job. His digs are with an old couple in Bow where he has to share a single bed (head to toe) with their mentally retarded son. Life in the foundry is grim but William is indomitable. For recreation one day he cycles (then in the days before inflatable tyres) to Berkhamstead to try and track down an old girlfriend. She's not there and he has to return in a snowstorm - it takes him eight hours to get back to Poplar and then he has to get up three hours later to work at the foundry. Eventually he decides to 'get some leernin' and his first white collar job starts for the water board in ...Brettenham House! He continues to pursue his studies, finally winning a place at Ruskin College, Oxford. How the ex-steel worker became an Oxford academic - and William's concluding description of returning from the war to meet the son he's never seen - is deeply moving.
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(137mm x 200mm x 21mm)
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
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UK Kirkus Review »
The Road to Nab End is a book that holds a special place in many people's esteem, so richly did William Woodruff recreate his life in Lancashire in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Woodruff was born into a family of Lancashire cotton workers, and worked as a delivery boy in a grocer's shop. But despite these unpromising beginnings, the author's skills at evoking a vanished era and the many colourful characters he encountered made for delightful reading. Beyond Nab End is the sequel to that remarkable book, and maintains the high standard of its predecessor. Woodruff is now 16 years old, and has decided to strike out from his familiar haunts, leaving the economically depressed Lancashire of his childhood to establish himself in London. But the East End of London proves to be a forbidding, squalid place, and his bedsit is hardly welcoming. In the streets, British fascism is stirring, and the author will witness the response of his neighbours to the Blackshirts, as the nation finds that it must gird its loins for the challenge of another world war. What makes Beyond Nab End quite as engrossing as Woodruff's earlier book is the fastidious recreation of a crucial and troubling time in British history, along with the individuals he encounters, such as his alcoholic landlady and her psychotic son, with whom the luckless Woodruff has to share a room. Most of all, it's the sprit of a people that the author conjures so vividly here: a nation in all its variegated character facing a massive threat from abroad. The first book had the always safe perspective of a child's vision; Woodruff shows that he can confidently handle the more complex challenge of the older narrator used here. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - William Woodruff
From his birth in 1916 until he ran away to London, William Woodruff lived in the heart of Blackburn's weaving community. He eventually went to Oxford University and lived in Florida for over forty years. He died in 2008.