Monday, July 25, 2011
1923: A Memoir: Lies and Testaments by Harry Leslie Smith
To say that Harry Smith was born under an unlucky star would be an understatement. Born in England in 1923, Smith chronicles the tragic story of his early life in this first volume of his memoirs. He presents his family's early history-their misfortunes and their experiences of enduring betrayal, inhumane poverty, infidelity, and abandonment.
1923: A Memoir presents the story of a life lyrically described, capturing a time both before and during World War II when personal survival was dependent upon luck and guile. During this time, failure insured either a trip to the workhouse or burial in a common grave. Brutally honest, Smith's story plummets to the depths of tragedy and flies up to the summit of mirth and wonder, portraying real people in an uncompromising, unflinching voice.
1923: A Memoir tells of a time and place when life, full of raw emotion, was never so real.
It is always interesting to see eras, such as World War II, through the eyes of one single individual. This is a well written memoir that follows the author’s life through his difficult childhood in the Great Depression, showing how his mother slowly began to give up her ideals to put food on the table for her children, while Harry turned to library books for solace.
The writing is simple and to the point, making the events the most important aspect. Sometimes turning brutally stark, the writing tears away until the truth of those years shines through. There are not many books out there that show the life of a pilot during those years, and I was surprised at how moving many of the sections were. There was no real dull moment in the book’s entirety, which is something to compliment the author about.
Writing a memoir is not an easy matter, there is always the danger of maudlin scenes or descriptive minutia that might mean a lot for the author but not for the reader, so this is one of those books that should be read, not only for the incredible life resting in its pages, but for the skill with which it was handled. I can easily recommend it to lovers of memoirs and of history.