The writer V. S. Pritchett ended his life crowned with honours, but he never forgot his working-class beginnings in London.
Victor’s mother, an irrepressible cockney from Kentish Town, had hoped for a daughter, whom she intended to call after the dying Queen, so when the baby turned out to be a boy, she had to make a hasty adjustment. Life for the Pritchetts was full of hasty adjustments. Pritchett’s father – who later converted to Christian Science – was a reckless, over-optimistic peacock of a man, always embarking on new business ventures which inevitably crashed, hence the ‘cab at the door’, waiting to bear the family quietly away from yet another set of creditors.
V. S. Pritchett captures unforgettably the smells, sounds and voices of London in the first decades of the twentieth century, and the cast of Dickensian characters who made up his childhood world, from his austere Yorkshire grandparents, to the members of his father’s Christian Science church, and the employees and customers of the Bermondsey leather factor’s where he worked as a clerk until he made his getaway to Paris at the age of 20, determined to become a writer. It’s impossible to sum up a book of such vigour and originality in a few words. It simply has to be read.
Avid to Live and Learn
I shall always be grateful to A Cab at the Door. I read most of it one Sunday evening in a Victoria line tube train which was stuck for two hours outside King’s Cross station. The train lights...Read more