The Girl from Hockley: Growing Up in Working-Class Birmingham

Written by Joanna Goldsworthy (ed.) Kathleen Dayus
Review by Ruth Downie

Kathleen Dayus was born in 1903, and this new edition combines several of her works into a volume telling the story of her life until 1991. The childhood she describes is one of poverty, ignorance and casual cruelty lived out in the industrial slums of Birmingham – punctuated by one memorably anarchic foray into the countryside. Some years later, unable to support her own children, she was forced to relinquish them into care and then had to fight to get them back. However, this is not a ‘misery’ memoir: her aim is ‘that my people should not be forgotten’. Her words paint a vivid and often humorous portrait of a family surviving in the days before, as she put it, ‘The National Health Service and council houses and colour television… clouded our memory of where we came from and who we are.’