Tuesday, 9 May 2017

A Pair of Jesus-Boots

A Pair of Jesus-Boots was originally published in 1969, reprinted several times in the early to mid 70s and then made into a BBC 4 part series in 1976. However, I think it's been out of print since the 70s and all the covers available appear rather dated and truly tragic.

A Pair of Jesus-Boots tells the story of thirteen year old Rocky O'Rourke. Rocky lives in the worst building in a poor square in Liverpool. He lives with his mother and his seven year old stepsister. His father is dead, although we don't ever find out why, and his stepfather is away. Rocky's mother is not really available, she likes sitting in her chair reading 'soppy' paper-back romances. Ellen-from-upstairs leaves her baby outside in all weathers in his old pram.
Number 3 was regarded by the rest of the square as the most disreputable house, and the families living there were regarded as the roughest and least desirable. Certainly they were the poorest, and the house was the dirtiest. 
Rocky hangs with a group of four other kids, they call themselves a gang, The Cats, and they are starting off a career of crime with minor acts- nicking biscuits from the back of a lorry, breaking into an empty shop. Rocky idolises his older brother who has been in jail for some time but is due out soon. 
Rocky lived mainly in a dream world, where school and home didn't have any existence for him. in his dream work he was either a successful criminal leader or a famous footballer - it all depended where his interests lay at that moment.
While I liked the setting, the story, and the Liverpudlian speech

'She'd have done better to have bought yer some warm clothes- an' a pair of shoes,' said the policeman. 
the writing never drew me into book fully, and the third person narrative was jarring. I found the characterisation and actions of Mrs Flanagan (Rocky's mother) quite confusing. Her behaviours and words are all over the shop.

Rocky's gang spend a lot of time sitting in their hideout drinking tea and playing cards. The boys in Rocky's gang are surprisingly diverse for the 60s. Billy Griffiths was crippled by polio when he was eight, and now has a limp, and gets about on a tricycle. Another of Rocky's friends is Little Chan who's parents run the local chippy. However the local villain is called Jim Simpson, which doesn't really sound all that threatening a name. 


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