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Sunday, 9 November 2008

Book of the week: Against the Grain, by E.A. Markham

I missed choosing an Antilles book of the week last week, dear readers--I was distracted by the news of David de Caires's death. And this week's choice reminds me of another recent sad loss. E.A. Markham--Archie to his friends--died in March this year, just as his latest book was going to press. Against the Grain is his memoir of childhood in Montserrat and his early years in Britain, where he moved with his family in 1956.

An excerpt appeared in the May 2008 issue of the CRB, under the title "Remembering London". It begins:

There were times when you felt it to be the right age: sixteen, in London, in 1956. Behind you were the terrors of growing up (God and church and family respectability); before you, something unknown but not unappealing. You liked living in a flat in a house joined to other houses; it was the opposite of the isolation of inhabiting that big old house in Harris’, in Montserrat, with your grandmother. You liked it that there seemed a sense of order in the street; streets regularly swept (the pavement, even, swept by some of the tenants or owners), the milkman leaving pints of milk on the doorstep, and no one stealing them. Riding the huge trolley-buses that hurtled down the Harrow Road towards Royal Oak seemed wonderfully risky and daring as they sent out blue sparks overhead, where their attachments slid along the electric cables high above the street....

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