Small In Stature, Big In Heart
The Life Of Riley by Sharon Plant is a marvellous historical novel that is both educating and eye opening.
The novel is set during the first quarter on the twentieth century as we follow Ray Riley from a six year old to a married man. The story is fictional but the locations in London are accurate of conditions at the time.
Poverty in the early twentieth century was rife. Sharon Plant has perfectly captured the squalor and the desperation, as the reader hears of rodent infested rooms with water running down the walls.
We see the effect of poverty and the feeling of hopelessness on lives as wages are often spent in the pub rather than putting food on the table. Ill tempers often see wives sporting black eyes.
Living in poverty means families cannot always afford to look after their own children and they send them away to live with richer relatives. This really resonated with me as after my Nanny’s mother died in 1894. She was given to an uncle and aunt to be looked after and her baby brother given to the neighbours. The other six children stayed in the family home.
World War I devastated lives already blighted by poverty as families sent husbands and sons off to war and not all returned.
Against the backdrop of poverty, we meet Ray Riley, small in stature but big in heart. No matter what life throws at him, he loves and he keeps going. He is very family orientated, even from a small child.
The first part of the twentieth century saw a great deal of changes in the world but people still got married, gave birth and died. The Life Of Riley captures the lives of an ordinary family. It is a social commentary on the lives of people living in London at the time. It will educate you as you read. It is a book crying out to be read, to show us how our ancestors lived and loved.
I received a free copy from the publishers. A favourable review was not required. All opinions are my own.