`The Naples of England’ Andy C Miller
I read this book while on a recent trip to France and ‘The Naples of England’ transported me to the post war period in England’s South Coast resort of Weymouth following the author’s journey from childhood through adolescence towards adulthood. This is more than Clitheroe Kid meets Adrian Mole but I was reminded of both as I read through the very varied accounts of the young boy’s life.
Miller tells us that a ‘comfortable web of activity surrounded our lives at number 100 Purbeck Road’, but in fact the book opens with a disturbing outburst as a neighbour suffers flashbacks to his treatment at the hands of the Japanese in a prisoner of war camp. The rosy view of a happy childhood prevails and the hints at grimmer adult realities are always seen from a distance and the security and certainty of the Miller family hearth.
As I read on, I felt that I was being given privileged access to some intimate memories of life in the close community of kids on the council estate as well as a window on the glamour of the adjacent seaside resort with its deck chairs, amusements and shifting population.
Miller admits to both his naughtiness and his naivety and tells his story with a soupçon of nostalgia which sets us up for an unsettling revelation.
On reading this book I had learned about one family, a lot about a generation, a little about Weymouth but nothing about Naples! I was absorbed by the narrative and only as I finished did I return to the question I first asked myself: ‘What makes Weymouth the Naples of England?’
This is a good personal story well told, but also a thoughtful reflection on the early life of a south coast Baby Boomer.