Wild About Harry by Henry Grinberg
WILD ABOUT HARRY is a coming-of-age story. Harry Glass is a ten-year-old boy growing up in a Jewish family in London around the beginning of the Second World War. He is constantly in trouble with his parents, lower-middle-class immigrants from Eastern Europe, struggling to understand him and adjust to English language and life.
There is a massive disconnect between Harry’s view of things and that of his parents—and practically everybody else. This leads to confrontations and collisions with parents, teachers, principals, uncles, and aunts. The consequences are at once menacing, affecting, and absurd—this against a backdrop of Hitler’s threats to the world and Europe’s Jews.
After the fall of France, Harry is evacuated from London to Wales. Wales proves to be hardly idyllic. Ironically, this supposedly safe haven is among the first areas attacked by the Luftwaffe. After a series of traumatic events—a precocious sexual experience, subsequent betrayal, and being strafed by a German plane—Harry suffers a breakdown, recuperates in a military hospital, and, ironically again, is sent back home to London just in time for the start of the Blitz.
The narrative is marked by a closely observed, richly detailed, yet unsentimental evocation of times and events that range from the stark to the ridiculous. Harry ends up having learned quite a bit about the world and himself: definitely bloodied, but definitely unbowed.
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