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As a young lad growing up in hard-pressed Liverpool in the 1950's, Jeff Pearce spent many of his early years begging rags from the rich, to help his beloved mother turn them into clothes to sell on the markets. Life was hard and money was tight, with Jeff's dad often squandering what little money the family had to survive on.
Yet despite the difficulties faced and the poverty endured, the family, in particularly Jeff and his mum, worked hard, believing that hard work would one day equal wealth and success. Jeff learned a lot from his mum's work ethic and perseverence, and at 14 left school to enter the workplace, despite having severe dyslexia, meaning he was unable to read and write. Having been told by a teacher that he would never amount to anything in life, Jeff was determined to prove her and others wrong, and was eager to rise above the slum life he knew, in order to carve out a new life for himself.
Unfortunately Jeff's mum soon falls ill, and eventually passes away, leaving him heartbroken but determined to make her proud of him. It is fair to say that the relationship they shared was a very strong one, and one which had a profound impact on Jeff and the way he relates to people and the world around him.
After a series of jobs, Jeff meets Gina, who is from a similar background. They fall in love and set up business together, selling teenage fashion on the local markets. Soon their business expands and they are able to open a little shop on the high street, and from here their business goes from strength to strength. They become very wealthy, have two children, and continue to work hard and enjoy their extravagent lifestyle and all the trappings of wealth.
But then the recession hits, and very quickly they lose the house and business they have worked so hard to achieve. Jeff is forced back out on the markets, but decides to start again at building his fashion empire. Times are very tough indeed so can he deliver on his promise?
Having always been a fan of true stories, I had previously decided to give up reading them as constantly reading about abuse, degradation and poverty had really dragged me down, but this book is different.
For a start, there is no awful child abuse element, no beatings or anything like that. In fact, this is an uplifting tale and despite the poverty, Jeff had a happy and colourful upbringing. Much emphasis is placed on friendships formed, and strong family relationships. Even Jeff's dad is not all bad, and despite being a drinker and irresponsible, still loves his family. The childhood section of the book tells the story of a different time, where many people were in a similar boat, and people pulled together and helped each other out.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the references to life in a bygone time, when things were easier in some ways, but harder in others. It was interesting to read about the excitement television was causing, and to hear about the rag and bone man, and how the world was changing rapidly at the time, with people trying to embrace the changes without really understanding them.
The characters are strong and likeable, and I was rooting for Jeff and his family throughout all their triumphs and struggles. I wanted him to do well, as he is the kind of person who never gives up, despite many a door being slammed in his face over the years.
The values instilled in Jeff, thanks to his beloved mother are strong ones, and as such he has a sound work ethic, respect, and old-fashioned family values. He looks after people and has charisma and charm, inherited from his wayward father.
This is a really enjoyable book, and I read it eagerly. As well as being well-written in a storytelling style, it is easy to relate to. Yes there is poverty, but nothing that would have been unusual at the time of Jeff's childhood, and yes there is loss, but there are also themes relating to success, failure, family, loyalty, love and of course triumph over adversity.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys true life tales, but is perhaps after something a little more uplifting, funny, and warm.
A pocketful of holes and dreams~ visit the author's website: http://jeffpearce.co.uk/
This is a review of the 2011 book 'A pocketful of holes and dreams' by Jeff Pearce. I enjoy reading people's accounts of their lives and this one was a 'rise to fame' from rags to riches story.
Early childhood - charming
Jeff Pearce describes his childhood in a charming way. His mother would do anything for her children and introduced him to working on the markets from a young age, selling clothes she had bought from the rag and bone man and been up all night mending.
Trading is in his blood
His taste for trading, particularly in clothes is the theme to his life as he grows up, he knows this is what he wants to do despite being given the short shrift from his careers adviser.
Life is not on Jeff's side, he struggles to read and write into adulthood but he is determined to succeed and repeatedly picks himself up and dusts himself off.
Women are his inspiration
The women in Jeff's life are inspirational and supporting. He idolises his mother to beyond the grave and uses her as his muse.
The recession features heavily toward the end of the book, demonstrating the true price many successful businesses paid. Losing his house and all his money Jeff has to start again but he is inspiring in the way he gets on and does this for the sake of his family.
Despite his father, the family bond is so strong in this book. Jeff has a great relationship with his siblings and mother. He's definitely a worker too - from his early days on the markets to building sites, bar work, bouncer to chef and more market stalls and shops. He commanded my respect from early pages onwards.
I loved reading this book and tore through it. I'm not particularly interested in the fashion industry but nevertheless enjoyed reading Jeff's account, especially the challenges he found in his early childhood. The description of the swimming baths, bath house, ice rink and markets in Liverpool are evocative and rich.