To sir with love by E R Braitithwaite

To sir with love by E R Braithwaite

Guyanese fiction

Source – personal copy (on kindle)

I posted my interest in the Jubilee reading list and this is one of the books on the list it appealed as I hadn’t reviewed a book from Guyana and I have never seen the film and it is rare I’ve not seen the film to a book especially when it is a well known film so I decided to read to then hopefully at a later date I will be able to see the film. Anyway E r Braithwaite Had studied in New your before he joined the RAF this is where this novel starts as it is autobiographical.He like the character in his book went to the Uk after the war. We see his struggle and how he Fell into teaching this lead to him have a long connection in. the education system where he worked for a number of years along side his writing career as a educational consultant for UNESCO. He actually lived to the ripe old age of 104 when he passed in 2016.

The bus pulled away from the stop, but I remained standing there, feeling suddenly depressed by the prospect around me. I suppose I had entertained some naïvely romantic ideas about London’s East End, with its cosmopolitan population and fascinating history. I had read references to it in both classical and contemporary writings and was eager to know the London of Chaucer and Erasmus and the Sorores Minores. I had dreamed of walking along the cobbled Street of the Cable Makers to the echoes of Chancellor and the brothers Willoughby. I wanted to look on the reach of the Thames at Blackwall from which Captain John Smith had sailed aboard the good ship Susan Lawrence to found an English colony in Virginia. I had dreamed. . . .

Braithwaite, E. R.. To Sir With Love (Vintage Classics) (p. 9). Random House. Kindle Edition.

His dream ideas and reality hit one another

The book follows Ricky Braithwaite a fthinly veiled version of the writer himself and the book opens as he is in the Rf and is getting demobbed where he struggles with getting a job in the field he is trained for from his RAF job as an engineer so struggling he takes the one job he can get as a teacher in an East end school. The school is eye opening for Ricky as the students aren’t ike he was as they struggle to read and learn this along with the fact he is constantly tease and disrupt with noise and other things by the students. Then he worries about the female students and their periods. This see him try a new approach where he want to show them there is more to life and with Gillian another young teacher he tries to show them Museums and the wider world. As the two teacher grow closer. His methods work but not everyone sees that as some prefer the old fashioned tough approach to the students and the way the behave.

The smells arose from everything, everywhere, flowing together and remaining as a sickening, tantalizing discomfort. They flowed from the delicatessen shop with its uncovered trays of pickled herrings, and the small open casks of pickled gherkins and onions, dried fish and salted meat, and sweaty damp walls and floor; from the fish shop which casually defied every law of health; from the Kosher butcher, and the poulterer next door where a fine confetti of new plucked feathers hung nearly motionless in the fetid air; and from sidewalk gutters where multitudes of flies buzzed and feasted on the heaped-up residue of fruit and vegetable barrows.

Braithwaite, E. R.. To Sir With Love (Vintage Classics) (p. 9). Random House. Kindle Edition later on the same and next page this evoked for me Call the midwife so much in this description of the smell of the East End!!

This is a book that opens the eye to attitudes in post war Britain and how they changed for Braithwaite character from the time he was in the RAF in the war where he felt that he was an equal the shocking crash to earth afterwards where the doors close. But that lead to him teaching and that was a passion he had all his life. I loved the descriptions in the book of theEast End of the day it was similar in feel to the early series of Call the midwife in fact as I reed through the book I imagine the class full of the students and kids seen in that show. It shows what one person can do to change those pupils life it is a look at the old system of teaching that was around discipline to what were newer ideas to nourish and inspire pupils which is what I always try to do here. I really want to watch the film which I haven’t seen or if I had I can’t remember this sits along side the early wind rush books as showing how it was to come to the Uk from Guyana or the Caribbean in those post war years when the were hopes for a better life often dashed like early in Ricky’s time but some do like Ricky make a way and become a success.I would love to read another book that was written by one of his former pupils to see how he viewed the experience of Ricky teaching him. Have you read this book ?

Winstons score – -A an interesting ;book at post war Britain and education from a teacher struggling to teach and be accepted.

March 2023


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