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~~Dance for your Daddy: The true story of a brutal East End childhood~~
Dance for your Daddy is a short book by Katherine Shellduck; it illustrates her life growing up in the East End with a brute for a father who pushed her mother into prostitution and her journey of being passed from pillar to post. Her Dad, a small-time gangster was thought to have links with the Cray twins and was always up to no good, her parents split up which then led to Kathy and her sisters having a brief stay in foster care before being sent to a boarding school paid for by her Mother's lover. Whilst Kathy is at home visiting she gets a shock when a familiar looking man draws a gun out and shoots a man four times, the victim is the Mother's lover.
The story is quite short and consists of 211 pages which I think is quite short for one of these books. I feel like the story wasn't very strong and I was finding my concentration drifting off from time to time. The story is very easy to read so anyone would be able to read this book without any difficulty. I am not too keen on this book I must say, I only finished the book because I felt as though I had to because I had started it. The story didn't quite measure up to the title it just seemed a bog standard unknown wannabe gangster's family tale, it was very predictable and I don't think the story was conveyed in the correct way as it just did not spark any emotional response from me, which these books normally do.
I would only recommend this book if you are after a quick read, I wouldn't recommend it on any other basis.
~~review also on Ciao~~
Kathy and her three sisters Bud, Tigs, and Lu, grew up in the east end of London . Her father was a cockney spiv, selling knock off perfume to neighbours, and involved in petty criminal activity, but his dealings didn't make him much money, and the family lived in poverty, with the children having holes in their shoes and often going without food . He hit upon an easy way to make some money - and forced his wife into prostitution. Things were looking up for the kids - there was plenty of money for clothes, toys, and food now - until their mother fled, tearing the family apart...
The first thing I noticed when I started reading this book was the easy conversational tone in which it was written . Kathy writes not as an adult, but from the perspective of the confused eight year old girl she was at the time, with all a child's confused loyalties and unconditional love. She speaks very fondly of her sisters, and quickly manages to establish each of them as having a unique and well formed personality, and this clear and concise way of writing makes the book very easy to read with no confusion of events .
Going into too much detail of the happenings of the book would give away spoilers, but circumstances after the departure of the girls mother were very unsettled for the whole family, and Kathy sums up both the negative and the positive impacts of her mothers decision to leave, again from an innocent and childlike perspective. She describes her fathers inability to cope - the way he moped around the house with little thought for practical matters such as school dinners or clean uniform, and the way her Nan had to step in to make sure the girls were fed, bathed and clothed.
Despite the events of the book, this isn't a misery memoir . At no point does Kathy seem to be attempting to garner sympathy - in fact, I found the overall feeling I was left with after reading the book was an amazement at how close the bonds of family can be amongst siblings, and an admiration for the way the four girls fought to make a secure and stable life for themselves.
The book took me about a day to read - it's not a particularly big book, and the tone makes it easy to keep on reading without getting bogged down in detail. Perhaps the lack of detail is one criticism, as some events are covered almost too briefly and could have done with a little more depth . I found that the book wasn't quite as exciting as the tagline 'The true story of a brutal east end childhood' made it out to be, as Kathy's childhood, despite being at time unstable and overshadowed by violence elsewhere, seemed actually pretty loving and happy .
Overall though, a satisfying read. Not as heart wrenching or thought provoking as many other similar books, and perhaps a little too uneventful . 3 stars .
=== Introduction ===
I got this book as it was recommended to me on Amazon, so when it came up that there was a copy on BookMooch, I mooched it straight away, despite having a load of other books to read.
The front cover describes this book as "The True Story of a Brutal East End Childhood", and is said to be "Truly Heartbreaking" by Richard McCann, author of "Just a boy".
I have read a lot of autobiographies of people's tragic upbringings and the like, so I was eager to get stuck into another tale of woe on my otherwise uneventful Sunday afternoon. It's not because I enjoy these autobiographies as such, but there's something quite compelling about them, and I can't stop reading them. And as I've said before, it's all research for when I write my autobiography!
=== The Author ===
Katherine Shellduck was born in the East End of London in the 1960s. She now lives in Australia with her two children and is a qualified teacher and journalist.
=== The Story ===
The book begins as Kathy sets the scene with her violent and abusive (verbally and physically) father, and we are introduced to her world. Her older sister Bud (the bossy one), her non-identical twin Tigs (who will go nowhere without her beloved football), younger sister Lu (the beauty and brains of the sisters), her mother, and her nanny (her mum's mum).
Whilst looking for sweets one day, Kathy comes across a bag full of bloody knives and clothes, and she's confused as to what this means. Then her mother gets a new job and is never around, but suddenly there is money to spend (the children don't realise just what this job is). After years of poverty, all appears to be well, until the mother disappears.
Abandoned by their mother and not allowed contact with their father, the sisters end up in a children's home, but then by a twist of luck(if you can call it that) and change in family finances in a boarding school.
Although it is tragic that the mother didn't want her children, they always had the love of each other, and in general they lived reasonable lives. Not ideal by any means, but reasonable in comparison to many. That is, until their father commits murder...That is, until their father commits murder...
=== And then what? ===
I perhaps made that sound a bit more dramatic than it was. After the murder nothing really happened in the book. Then we move forward to when Kathy started to write this book (essentially the present day), and visits London in order to make sense of her past and what happened to her father.
=== What I thought ===
Perhaps after reading so many autobiographies I've become a bit desensitised to tragic childhoods, and to be honest that is quite a sad state of affairs.
But that's not really the problem with the book - after all someone doesn't need the world's most tragic story to be able to write a good autobiography. But somehow I felt that it was lacking substance, and structure.
It's difficult to criticise too harshly though, as I did read the book in one sitting (although that was primarily due to its short length), and I did want to find out what was going to happen. But somehow I left the book feeling a bit disappointed and wondering what the point of it was, especially the last few chapters.
I'm not saying it wasn't a good read, because it was, and I do admire Kathy for telling her story. But I have read reviews on Ciao and DooYoo of people's life experiences which make far better reading material than this book! Perhaps I've just got to the stage now where I've read too many of these autobiographies....
=== Other Information===
The book is just 211 pages. It can be bought for £5.49 on Amazon, but I wouldn't pay that much for it. I have since sent it off to someone else on BookMooch.
I would probably give the book 5 out of 10, so being generous it can have 3 stars. I would only recommend it to people who are avid autobiography readers.
Also published on Ciao.
'This morning I found this bag. I had been looking for sweets. I put my hand in the bag and felt a sticky liquid on my fingers, then I looked at it. It was a red smear. Then I looked in the bag: bloody knives and clothes. It didn't feel good. What did it mean? I don't know. There are no answers; I daren't ask the questions' Growing up in poverty in London's East End, Kathy was eight years old when her father forced her mother into prostitution. When their mother fled, leaving Kathy and her sisters behind, the girls stuck fiercely together while being passed from children's homes to boarding schools. Then, on a rare trip home, Kathy looked out the window to see a man firing four shots into a Rolls-Royce. It took several seconds for her to realise the victim was her mother's lover, and the gunman was her father. Kathy began her haunting memoir when, as an adult, she travelled back to London, to find out who her gangster father really was. A compelling memoir of an extraordinary childhood, "Dance for your Daddy" is a true story of the effects on one family of poverty, affluence, violence and love.