As reported on the front page of the West Briton (5 January 2012), Tony Berry was prompted to leave his home in Australia to discover the lives of his ancestors in Wales, Yorkshire, Sussex and Cornwall.
His discoveries about his family form the basis of this book, the story of working class hardship, life in the workhouse, eventual (relative) prosperity and, above all, synchronicity. Not so much a family saga, more a sprint through 100 years of British history.
Verdict: So often books about family history are poorly written vanity projects spurred on by fond relatives and friends wanting their share of the glory. Happily for the reader, Tony Berry is a journalist and an excellent researcher, and although I’m sorry he didn’t discover links to the French Royal family, his story lacks nothing as a result. Thus we learn of child labour, the rise of the trades union movement, increase in emigration, tragic births and deaths, the impact of war and, like the author himself, come to realise just how far we have all travelled – figuratively and literally over the past century. ****