The death of Leslie Thomas' parents in the early part of the Second World War meant that he and his brother were wrenched from their lives in Newport and entered into the world of the Barnado's homes. The author himself left his sick brother in the back of an ambulance, being told that he would see him the next morning. 18 months later he ran away from the home to find his brother spending days walking the 60 miles to find him. His brother had only just been informed of his mother's death. Presumably the institutions didn't prioritizes it. The young boy had thought he'd been abandoned when his mother didn't reply to his letters and his brother never got them.
Despite this bureaucratic ineptitude (and occasionally because of it), Thomas' life in the home is by terms achingly funny and beautifully poignant. The cast of characters, many of them in no position to teach a class of self confident boys reads, are remembered in brief little snatches of commentary. Thomas' writings brilliantly portray the men and women, who clearly had made immense sacrifices themselves to look after the orphans. The boys, as boys do, let no chance go to waste. One master, with the innocent surname Allcock, instantly earns the nickname "no balls". A piece of schoolboy genius from which few teachers could recover.
I love this book in part for its wonderful writing, but also because it meant a lot to my father. Reading it brings some wonderful, and some sad memories. So forgive me if this review doesn't go on further.