This isn’t my usual kind of book. But I absolutely loved it. I liked the sound of it from the blurb but, actually, the blurb really doesn’t do it justice.
Shoes for Anthony is the story of an 11 year old boy living in poverty in a small town in Wales during World War II. The family is so poor he doesn’t have shoes, just a pair of hand-me-down wellies. The youngest of four children, his father and his brothers are miners. It is a world where men are men, women are women and little boys are largely ignored.
The story is based on the author’s father’s childhood. The first half of the book is lovely. It follows Anthony as he has adventures with his friends and gets into fights at school. There is so much warmth and humour in every page. I particularly love the relationship Anthony has with his sister, Bethan, the only family member who seems to have much time for him.
The war brings excitement to the little mining town in the form of American soldiers, who bring sweets for the children, give the women something to talk about and the men something to resent. But about halfway through the book, the mood changes. A foreign plane crashes into the Welsh hillside and the war suddenly starts to get very serious indeed for Anthony, his friends and family.
Shoes for Anthony reminded me of a children’s book in many ways – the sort of book I read as a child, rather than the sort my kids read now. It is kind of a cross between Just William and The Machine Gunners (which very old readers like myself might remember watching on TV in the 80s).
It is a brilliantly entertaining read and I would definitely recommend it. I’m even going to try to persuade my sons to read it (although that might be easier said than done as they don’t read much these days).