Sunday, April 3, 2011

1923: A Memoir by Harry Leslie Smith

1923: A Memoir by Harry Leslie Smith

The author, Harry Smith, describes his birth as coming into the world with no fanfare, no glad-handing in February 1923. He was born into poverty, abuse, and alcoholism during the Great Depression in England. The matriarch in the family, Lillian, had abandoned Harry’s father, Albert, to put food on the table. She fled numerous places called home, and accepted another man only to feed her kids. Lillian was hardly the loving mother; however, Harry did love her as he did his father. But not for Harry’s sister, Mary, he never would have survived. She provided the emotional and physical stability for Harry even though she was only three years older.

Harry discovered a library where books offered him much solace in his chaotic life. He read and dreamed of escaping the place he called home. He took a bicycle ride to York and after observing a beautiful medieval cathedral he experienced an epiphany; he would someday escape from King Cross, Halifax, and Yorkshire. There was another world out there and Harry would find it.

Harry did see more of the world, but not always in a good way. He joined the Royal Air Force during WWII. He experienced the horrors of war that every man and woman in the service should never have to experience.

Harry tells his stories of home and war like a good novel. He describes his family and war buddies as if we were family and kin.

There are many books written about WWII and The Great Depression, however written in a memoir creates a different read. If not for the true to life language of Harry’s experiences, this story could be on school book shelves for students studying history.

I am hoping for a sequel as the ending leaves the reader intrigued. Glad you survived, Harry, to write this memoir. Hope to read more about you and Elfriede.

Book review by Mary Crocco

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