Bageye at the Wheel: A 1970s Childhood in Suburbia by Colin Grant
|Bageye at the Wheel: A 1970s Childhood in Suburbia by Colin Grant|
|Reviewer: Robert James|
|Summary: Not quite right for me, but this memoir of a young black boy growing up in Luton in the 1970s in the shadow of a volatile father has some strong points, particularly a bittersweet ending|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: April 2013|
|External links: Author's website|
Growing up as one of the few black children in Luton in the 1970s, Colin Grant was in awe of his father, always known as Bageye. In this memoir of his childhood, he looks back at his own early years and the impact his feckless dad - and his friends, or spars, such as Summer Wear, Tidy Boots, Anxious and Pioneer - had on him.
According to the back cover of this book, it's a wry and gentle comedy. There's no accounting for taste, I suppose, but I found little that was particularly gentle or humorous in all that much of it. I didn't really enjoy reading about a man who seemed to have the temperament of a volcano, in particular finding the scene in which he forcibly cut his daughter's fingernails against her will because she'd painted them to go to a party to be difficult to read.
Having said that, there are some genuinely funny bits - I particularly liked two men arguing over a snooker table they'd each paid half for, followed by one of them returning with an axe. In fact, thinking back, most of the best bits for me were when Bageye wasn't around - which perhaps may be something of a reflection of Grant's childhood in itself. Another strong point is the patois dialogue, which has a wonderful cadence. I also thought the bittersweetness of the ending lifted the last couple of chapters far above the rest of the book.
Not really for me, then, but in fairness I'm wondering if it's perhaps a generational thing to some extent? I can't decide whether I'm judging Bageye too much by what's normal today and in the 90s when I was about the same age as Colin Grant is in this book. Those who lived through the 70s may be more tolerant of Bageye and his attitude towards his family than I was, and in that case may well really enjoy the book. Certainly, I thought Grant's grasp of language was good enough to be interested in trying one of his non-fiction works to see if that's more to my taste.
For another childhood memoir, The Bookbag recommends I'll Tell Me Ma: A Childhood Memoir by Brian Keenan.
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