Category: V. S. Pritchett

book review – A Cab at the Door


Memoirs and biography in general are not things that usually draw me and it was with a sense of having paid for it and now having to read it that I picked up this book. Beautifully produced and printed by Slighty Foxed magazine the story of his youth by V.S Prichett is delivered in a well crafted tome.

Inside the pages the story emerges of a boy becoming a man living under the dual influences of his ambitious father and rather intimidated, but within the home aggressive, mother. The story of his life is one of constant movement – The Cab at the Door – as creditors catch up with his father.

But in the home it is the mother who exerts the influence and manages to help develop a boy that has ambitions to become a writer and use his talent not just to escape from poverty but also to give himself choices.

Things settle down a bit when the family moves near Dulwich and the teenage years begin but after being pulled out of school and sent to work the dreams of academic and literary success fade dramatically.

The reason why the book works though is that there is another character in the shape of London and the City emerges as Pritchett goes to work as a dirty fog filled inspiration. The glimpses of the capital as it prepares for war in 1914 and the details of working life are things that maybe you didn’t expect to find among the personal but are really interesting.

Plus the other reason for taking away an upbeat message is that despite the difficulties he faced and the moments when he almost gave up hope of being a writer he obviously did make it and that is something for us with creative ambitions to take note of.

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book review – A Cab at the Door


Memoirs and biography in general are not things that usually draw me and it was with a sense of having paid for it and now having to read it that I picked up this book. Beautifully produced and printed by Slighty Foxed magazine the story of his youth by V.S Prichett is delivered in a well crafted tome.

Inside the pages the story emerges of a boy becoming a man living under the dual influences of his ambitious father and rather intimidated, but within the home aggressive, mother. The story of his life is one of constant movement – The Cab at the Door – as creditors catch up with his father.

But in the home it is the mother who exerts the influence and manages to help develop a boy that has ambitions to become a writer and use his talent not just to escape from poverty but also to give himself choices.

Things settle down a bit when the family moves near Dulwich and the teenage years begin but after being pulled out of school and sent to work the dreams of academic and literary success fade dramatically.

The reason why the book works though is that there is another character in the shape of London and the City emerges as Pritchett goes to work as a dirty fog filled inspiration. The glimpses of the capital as it prepares for war in 1914 and the details of working life are things that maybe you didn’t expect to find among the personal but are really interesting.

Plus the other reason for taking away an upbeat message is that despite the difficulties he faced and the moments when he almost gave up hope of being a writer he obviously did make it and that is something for us with creative ambitions to take note of.

Cab at the Door – post V

This has been a much more enjoyable book than I expected. I’m not a great fan of memoirs but this covers an era where plenty was happening and a way of life that is no longer around.

The descriptions of London are now museum pieces and there is an enjoyment that comes from reading this just for those descriptions of fog filled streets. In the end the education that Victor has craved all of his youth seems to come back as a possibility and her heads off to Paris to continue his education through travelling.

He knows that he is leaving his family behind but he has outgrown his father and his Christian Science beliefs and the relationships with his siblings never seems to be that strong.

But what keeps you going is the character of Victor and knowing that by holding this book in your hand he clearly fulfilled his final ambitions to be a writer.

A review will follow soon…

Cab at The Door – post IV

I am rather enjoying this memoir as it weaves a story of a youth blighted not just by poverty but also by the war and by the pressure on the average to go straight into the workplace.

For Victor the knife is turned by his grandfather who tells his father that he should go into the workplace at the age of 15. That ends his dreams of becoming a writer and going onto study at school and college.

But aside from that there is an interesting insight into living in the London suburbs during the war because there was bombing and zeppelins coming over. but there is also a great deal of information about the Christian Scientists because that is what Victor’s father turns out to be and clearly for several years Victor himself was involved in that world partly to please his father and partly to gain access to an outlet for his writing in their magazine.

This is gentle but not totally unable to provoke a reaction.

More tomorrow…

A Cab at the Door – post III

Juggling several books at once gives the opportunity to forget one. Sao it was after a couple of says break that I turned back to this childhood memoir.

The tragedy is that you sense that even as things become settled and his father gets a business that seems to last the impact of the First World War is probably going to be disastrous and destroy the stability that is just starting to emerge.

The family settles in Dulwich, South east London, after being carted to Yorkshire, Ipswich and other parts of London. Once there it becomes clear to young Victor that he wants to be a writer and he starts consuming books as quickly as he can lay his hands on them and trying to get his parents to appreciate his interests.

But he fails to get a scholarship into a private school and that brings him down to earth with a bumpy and he is facing a mediocre future as the war breaks out.

More soon…

Cab at The Door – post II

Despite the constant movement of the family and the cracks in the parental marriage there is a loyalty shown in the young Vic not so much towards his family but towards London.

So when they move into the centre of the City he revels in the poverty and starts indulging in habits that even his parents disapprove of. They carry on when he has another spell back in Yorkshire at his grandparents.

There is a real sense of a childhood at the turn of the century with older boys threatening him with rumours of the reappearance of Jack the Ripper and references to the death of the King.

This evokes not just the past but the emergence of what became the future with his father representing the care-free modern man and his father the preacher holding all of the values of the Victorian era.

It is an easy read and one that shows underlines the old maxim about writers writing about what they know.

More soon…

Cab at the Door – post I

Now and again when I get the chance I pick up a copy of the literary quarterly Slightly Foxed. The magazine is always a real joy to read with various articles all espousing the pleasure of reading with various personal reactions to books and texts related. But earlier this year the magazine started publishing its own books. I picked up the first and third ones, not sure why I omitted the second one, and started to dip into the third one.

This is a memoir that I am going to read alongside maxim Gorky’s My Childhood, because in many respects they promise to be similar.

The Cab at the Door in the title refers to the constant moving of the family as they moved to escape the debts run up by the father. A poor childhood is very much dominated by the father’s constant movement but ironically he never seems to suffer with the brunt of the misery being taken on by the mother.

Past around various locations the narrator Vic is shuffled off to his grandparents who live in a Manse in Yorkshire but things are strained with the preacher and things never seem to settle down for Vic and his family.

More tomorrow…