Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:
The story of Joe from the end of A SON OF WAR, aged 16 (1955), through to the end of his first year at Oxford (1959), crossing the lines between childhood and adulthood as well as crossing from working class small town Wigton to cosmpolitan, rarified Oxford and all that promises for the future. The main thread is his relationship with Rachel, the 15 yr old schoolgirl he starts going out with in secret for fear of her father's fury and ends up engaged to while at Oxford until she breaks it off, knowing that they are on different paths in life and she belongs in the old, Wigton one. The dramas are the stuff of ordinary, family life, but Joe's rites of passage through adolescence will resonate with many, as will the example he sets of the new, post-war generation - the first 'teenagers', rock and roll and Teddy Boys.
Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
The final volume in Bragg's acclaimed trilogy about post-World War II England (after Soldier's Return and Son of War) picks up in the mid-1950s as young Joe Richardson becomes the first in the Northumbrian village of Wigton to attend Oxford. His parents, having weathered the storms of war, are approaching middle age and watch young Joe on the threshold of this great adventure with pride and affection. However, Joe is torn between his love of learning and his love for his teenage sweetheart, Rachel. He relishes his time with his learned tutors and the camaraderie with his fellow undergraduates but rushes back to Wigton and Rachel every chance he gets. Meanwhile, Rachel has left school and is cycling through jobs in a local bank, her life gradually steering away from Joe. Readers of the first two novels will warmly and enthusiastically welcome this finely crafted and engaging conclusion to Bragg's family saga. Highly recommended.-Susan Clifford Braun, Aerospace Corp., El Segundo, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Bragg's massive trilogy of his hometown in Cumbria, northern England, steers to a close as the torch is passed from WWII hero Sam Richardson to his son Joe. In 1955, Wigton is a quiet town, animated by hard work, gossip and changes of weather. Joe spends his days in school, nights working in his parents' pub and most of his free time thinking about his neighbor Lizzie. When Lizzie is sexually assaulted by some local roughnecks, the men are brutally beaten, and Lizzie is shipped off to be cared for by Liverpool relatives. As Joe grows older, his choices become starker; as he grows serious with a schoolmate named Rachel, opportunity knocks in the form of Oxford. Bragg has returned to the subject of Wigton many times over his long career as a novelist and BBC commentator, and his deep affection and knowledge of the place give strength to this coming-of-age story. As in The Soldier's Return and A Son of War, Bragg's prose is straightforward and unadorned, allowing only the occasional literary flourish, with a tendency toward understatement that is as precise as it is convincing. Devoted Anglophiles in particular will find much to appreciate in this unhurried examination of postwar English life. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Book Review
The concluding novel in a solid trilogy chronicling post-World War II northern English life. Bragg (A Son of War, 2003, etc.) pulls together his thoughtful story of the Richardson family by foregrounding the next generation, namely Joe, the sensitive son of Burma Campaign veteran Sam, now a pub landlord. From a fragmented opening, the schoolboy's narrative emerges to encompass developing identity and academic striving against the proud background of Wigton, a fictional town representative of Bragg's beloved Cumbria. Spanning 1955 to 1959, Joe's is a story of late development as adolescence gives way to his developing sexuality and passions for music, both rock-'n'-roll and classical. His affections are captured by Rachel Wardlow, the independent daughter of a local farmer, and they begin to date. Bragg is not a natural storyteller, but his affection for place, history and community anchor the narrative. The mood of England in the 1950s, a time of post-war reinvigoration when fresh ideas emerged, sometimes unsettling the generation who fought, is also evocatively pinpointed by cultural reference. Joe is clever enough to become a scholarship boy, part of a movement to dilute the class elitism at Oxford and Cambridge via a funded transfusion of regional and working-class intelligence. In keeping with the themes of masculinity and physical violence that seam the story, Sam hopes that Oxford will toughen Joe up. And Joe is undoubtedly jolted by the cultural shift when he arrives at the university which he finds `a bit posh` as well as intellectually intimidating. Homesick and lovesick, Joe hangs on to his relationship with Rachel, and the couple get engaged, but Rachel eventually breaks it off, leaving Joe cast properly adrift into his future. Things change, but not, perhaps, Sam's departing, resonant advice to Joe: "Be decent to people." An intelligent tribute to a heroic era and its aftermath, short on poetry but not on gravitas. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.