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"Rain On The Pavements" by Roland Camberton

Rain On The Pavements - Roland Camberton

Having very recently read Scamp, the first novel by Roland Camberton, and filled by enthusiasm for that book, I got hold of this, his only one other book before giving up writing. 

Rain On The Pavements, first published in 1951, was - likeScamp - also republished by Five Leaves (via their New London Editions imprint) in 2010, again complete with the book's original cover art by John Minton - a beautiful artwork that really compliments the contents and enhances the whole experience.

Roland Camberton, born Henry Cohen, came from a Jewish family in Hackney where he attended Hackney Downs School in the 1930s. He later anglicised his name to so his strictly religious family remained unaware that he was writing novels. Both Rain On The Pavements and Scamp, and based on Roland Camberton's life.

David Hirsch, the main character, is probably a self-portrait, and the book details his life growing up in a fairly orthodox Jewish family in Hackney throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Each chapter takes a portion of David's life from early childhood to gaining a scholarship to University. Each chapter introduces new characters who were, in the main, significant people in David's life, these include young uncles, school friends, teachers etc. and describes David's experiences around the East End, at school, and beyond into Soho. As with Scamp, a big part of the pleasure of this utterly enjoyable book, is the wealth of social history and detail. It all rings so true and is clearly based on personal experience. Little things, like for instance, David and a friend in Cable Street watching two of their bigger, braver school friends fighting with fascist black shirts, the book is full of this kind of detail.

Hackney is the constant throughout this wonderful book, its streets and characters providing the backdrop to many of David's experiences. As he matures, he is increasingly drawn towards the bohemian world of Soho, however throughout all his experiences what is clear is that he can never really escape from his home borough and all that it signifies.