'I weighed up these women in my life and decided that none of them would fill the role of a mother. But then, what did I know about mothers anyway? ... The short answer was nothing - bugger-all.'' Sydney in 1928 and Alva, a young Jewish wife, dies in childbirth. No family member is allowed to care for the baby, so ''Alva's boy'' is sent from one children's home to another. His father weds for the fourth time but young Alan finds his dreams of a real home shattered amid the ruins of this disastrous marriage. He navigates his way through childhood as a street-smart survivor, and not even the archetypal wicked stepmother, her terrible Ma or his own foolish father can rob him of hope. With a keen ear for authentic dialogue and a wry humour, Alan Collins tells a poignant story with vitality and a remarkable lack of sentimentality. The adult author reconstructs his childhood through the memory of vivid sensory experiences and presents a cast of unforgettable characters. He has an unerring sense of time and place, and through his eyes we glimpse Australia, and especially Jewish-Australian society, as it was in the 1930s and early 1940s. He shows us a community caught up in the Great Depression, anticipating and then experiencing war, coping with poverty, ill-prepared for the ''reffos'' who were coming from Europe. It is a memoir that is so Jewish and at the same time so Australian.
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