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By Dannie Abse

This pleasant autobiography skillfully interweaves the fortunes of a Jewish Welsh kin opposed to the bothered Thirties; unemployment, the increase of Hitler, and the Spanish Civil conflict.

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That is coercion. ’ 20 ‘But he gave me a penny,’ I said. ‘Then you’re a rich lad,’ he exclaimed, and looked so dismal that I offered him the coin. ‘That’s all right, lad,’ he said to me. ’ ‘Go on,’ I insisted. ‘Mama says you need it. ’ ‘Ah,’ said Uncle, ‘your Mama is so right. ’ ‘She still is,’ I said, big-eyed. ‘No, no,’ said Uncle. ’ Yes, Uncle Isidore had the soul of a gentleman. The front door bell rang again. ‘Megan Davies, Megan Davies,’ I screamed. Leo rushed to the door and I heard their voices together, and then the door slammed.

My father leaned over the fire, silently, and mother went on with her knitting. My brother Wilfred was a medical student at the Cardiff Royal Infirmary. ’ he repeated. ‘Leo chased Dad with a bread-knife and tried to kill him,’ I volunteered. ’ ‘Go to bed,’ said my mother. ‘There’s blood on the floor,’ I continued. ‘They tried to murder each other. ’ ‘Go to bed,’ repeated my mother. ’ ‘Yes. ’ And up I went, piggy-back, up the stairs, one by one on 23 Wilfred’s back; and I went to bed with the story of David and Goliath, of Jews and Philistines, and my brother’s gentle, responsible voice, echoing in my head.

When Mam would go and prepare breakfast I would lie on the warm part where she had been. My father snored with his mouth ajar. His face was turned towards me and I could see the individual pores in the skin over his nose, clearly. His skin was like a used dartboard. He opened one eye fishily and saw me upside down. ’ he said sleepily. ‘Your nose,’ I said. He closed his eyes again. The wallpaper in the bedroom was pinkish, so warm and kindly. He opened his left eye once more. ’ he asked. ‘Nothing,’ I said, but he turned over and I gazed at the back of his head.

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