Unemployed Struggles by Wal Hannington

This book is the memoirs of Wal Hannington from the 1930s. This is the decade remembered for mass unemployment, the decline of the staple industries, the removal of slum housing and the depression. It was an interesting book to read as a primary source for studying the 1930s, however Hannington himself annoyed me. We read about how he was Communist, and was imprisoned for that; how he was an active member of the National Unemployed Workers Movement – and the many clashes with the police he had and all the campaigns he was involved in. It was an interesting read as we don’t hear about him out looking for work, instead we read about him campaigning for better pay for employers, attempting to get trade unions on his side, his problems with the government and the benefits he is on and his general dissatisfaction with the “capitalist government” leadership. Although a very interesting point of view, it was these things about him that annoyed me. I just wanted to tell him to stop moaning and go get a job!! This book was a good historical source, but one must remember Hannington’s bias when reading it.

7/10

Love on the Dole by Walter Greenwood

This was on my reading list for university, and I am glad I picked it.

Synopsis:

In Hanky Park, near Salford, Harry and Sally Hardcastle grow up in a society preoccupied with grinding poverty, exploited by bookies and pawnbroker, bullied by petty officials and living in constant fear of the dole queue and the Means Test. His love affair with a local girl ends in a shotgun marriage, and, disowned by his family, Harry is tempted by crime. Sally, meanwhile, falls in love with Larry Meath, a self-educated Marxist. But Larry is a sick man and there are other more powerful rivals for her affection. The definitive deception of a northern town in the midst of the thirties’ depression. Walter Greenwood’s “Love on the Dole” was the first novel to be set against a background of mass unemployment and was instantly recognised as a classic when it was first published in 1933. Raw, violent and powerful, it was a cry of outrage that stirred the national conscience in the same way as the Jarrow march.

This is a very graphic look at life in the Industrial North in the 1930s. This was a time where Britain was suffering in the Depression with unemployment, the dole and Means Testing, poverty, poor living conditions and very little money. Love on the Dole is a great depiction of this; written in the ’30s, Greenwood holds nothing back. We see unemployment, the new role of women, leisure activities, poverty, humiliation and love. This has set an accurate image in my mind of the 1930s.

I liked the character of Sally, she was a headstrong, independent girl who knew what she wanted, which was a new identity for women. She was pursued by many men, two of whom I despised! This pleases me because it means I made a strong connection with the book.

Harry on the other hand, he annoyed me some what. He sulked and whinged a lot, however this is probably quite an accurate portrayal of the effect the Depression had on ordinary people.

I enjoyed this novel. It was a good story as well as an excellent historical source.

7/10