Book Review from the June 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard
"My Time, My Life," by George Camden, Dent, 8/- 254pp.
They say that sick people cannot read enough about their particular complaint. In the same way many workers, not content with witnessing the misery and unhappiness around them, are eager to read another's experiences of their own conditions. As a result such volumes as William Goldman's "East End, My Cradle," and "Tent of Blue," dealing with the slums and sweat shops of Whitechapel, and Max Cohen's "I Was One of the Unemployed" have earned a fair measure of success. It is likely that "My Time, My Life," will be equally successful. Of its type it is a well-written work.
Need I recapitulate the story? The pre-1939 unemployment, life in two rooms: the economic fear of a young wife at the signs of a second pregnancy; the deep-felt horror of the blitzes; the tragedy of a man returning from work to find his wife and baby dead; these are things we know only too well from the realm of hard experience. Yet Mr. Camden has set it down with a reality which excludes any of the false heroics which so frequently mar a work of this nature. In fact so honestly does Bill Smith, the "S" of this novel, react to his surroundings, that several critics, presumably in search of some treacly glorification of the "man in the street" at war, have condemned him as a cynic and a misery.
Bill Smith, just like his counterparts throughout the whole of the modern world, does not like his position in society, spending the best part of his life on the "ball and chain," released only to the dole or the army. He says, with typical bluntness:
"Brother, it's all double Dutch to me! We don't deal with this type of goods in our neighbourhood. We like each other or hate each other and there's always a good reason for both. We've got no territory except what we pay rent for. And when it comes to our turn in the wooden box we'll all have the same landlord."
How many workers make statements such as this; how many workers are aware of the contradictions and fallacies of the world around the, yet unable to recognise their cause and their cure! If Mr. Camden's work will prompt his readers to answer such questions as the one he poses above and many others besides, it is well worth while, but for those actively seeking a solution we suggest a little less consternation with effects and a lot more with causes.