Memories of a Vanished Way of Life
A vivid portrayal of the life of the thousands of East Londoners who worked in the hopfields of Kent during the 1940s, from the Sunday Times bestselling author of My East End
In the 1940s, nearly a quarter of a million East Londoners decamped annually for the hopfields of Kent. Most of the pickers were women, who would take their children and other dependent relatives to stay in the hoppers' huts on the farms.
This book records the memories of some of them, in their own lively words. Funny, nostalgic and ironic by turns, they tell of hopping as 'a break from him', an escape from the chesty London smog, respite from the bombs of war, as well as a source of income - and the nearest thing to a holiday that adults or children were likely to get. It was a time of hard graft, of laughter and companionship and long evenings around the faggot fire. In the memories of those who were there, it was a time when the sun always shone ...
Gilda O'Neill was herself a hop picker as a girl. In this vivid book she not only pays tribute to the creative genius of the working class of London's East End, but examines the role of memory and oral history in our understanding of the past.
“Funny, nostalgic and ironic”
“A vivid, honest and enchanting evocation”
“The stories are atmospheric, but it is O'Neill's open-minded examination of her own position in relation to the women, the history and the writing that makes this book a work of art”
What's On In London
“Gilda O'Neill has brought to life a time when women relished simple pleasures and the close friendships formed while working alongside one another each summer”
“The (pearly) queen of East End memoirists”
Financial Times magazine