Monday, October 23, 2017

Shoes for Anthony by Emma Kennedy

5 Star

‘They’re running wild. Feral! If I had a shilling for every time a Scott Street boy said he was doing something when he was doing something else entirely I’d be living in Cardiff in a house made of Lardy cake. What did I say? Bad things will happen!’

The idea of the war coming to their small, impoverished Welsh mining village always seemed remote, but with one explosive event and the arrival of the Americans preparing for the invasion of France, the people of Treherbert find their world turned upside down.

But war brings distrust, lies and danger. And as the villagers find themselves hopelessly divided, Anthony, an 11-year-old who hasn’t had a pair of shoes in years, is going to have to choose between what is popular and what is right.

Kathryn - 5 Star

Both the era and the area of Shoes for Anthony always pique my interest so I was immediately intrigued by this family story.  It is funny and sweet as well as heavy and dramatic and kept me turning the pages.

The author draws you in with Anthony's childish voice and the harsh reality of his life (that to him seems quite perfect).  It’s so easy to forget that not so many years ago every day activities could be taxing to the point of impossible for those living in rural villages and that this is still the reality for developing countries around the world.  The harsh working conditions of professions such as mining were always lingering in the background of the story. I found myself tense, waiting for something to drop but as the only source of available income for the families in Anthony’s world this feeling was a part of life.  For small children though, the admiration for the village men working in the mines brought huge excitement and pride. Though they all went to school it was expected that most boys would one day end up down the mine themselves.  Anthony barely had shoes to wear but was already anticipating his future. 

I can’t say I’ve ever been able to completely tune in to the mentality of a small boy- not my forte- however I love reading about their adventures and thought processes because it gives me a little inkling into how my father or husband once saw the world (though neither grew up in these same conditions!).  Anthony is charming in his naivety regarding the stranger that ends up living with them and yet he is also brave and aware when he realises what’s really happening.  He is at the exact age when innocence is becoming awareness- a fascinating mindset.

Despite the difficult living conditions, Anthony's family displayed affection for each other and the mother's love shines through.  Though his father and siblings are stiff and formal with him I still could feel their compassion and overall the story is of love, family and perseverance and it made me smile. 

Thank you to Thomas Dunne Books for our review copy.  All opinions are our own.

Connect with Emma Kennedy:
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