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Crystal Palace Vistas
By Roger Hutchings

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Crystal Palace Vistas
By Roger Hutchings
Isis Reminiscence Series - Large Print, (2001)
ISBN: 0-7531-9643-3
Genre: Autobiography

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - March 31, 2002

Take a trip back in time with Roger Hutchings and look over his shoulder as he takes you through a world that once was. In Crystal Palace Vistas, Hutchings's reminisces about his life as a young boy growing up in London in the 1920's. Although this book actually starts with the author's memories of Armistice Day in 1918, he also looks back upon some of his earliest memories of life.

The reminiscences in this book set against the backdrop of the Crystal Palace. Not only was the Crystal Palace a major landmark, but it also played a major role in Hutchings's life. Accordingly, it is emblazoned on his memory. It was a place that he often saw, and just as often visited for all variety of occasions, ranging from attending children's gatherings to musical interludes. Crystal Palace Vistas is an enthralling book that allows the reader to get a feel for what life was 'really' like in the years after the end of the Great War - from a child's perspective. This book is filled with unique insights, and fascinating observations that help to bring the period to life. The text is infused with period slang, and we learn that a Sprucer is someone who play's practical jokes and Jack use to be used as an epithet. Hutchinson also offers a candid glimpse at some of the numerous 'utopian' religious groups that gained many adherents after the end of the war, including one of his cousins. These groups include the Jezreelites and The Body of the Dependants also known as the Cokelers, which was a splinter group form The Plumstead Peculiars.

Throughout, Hutchings paints a vivid picture of what his life was like growing up, including the societal changes he observed as the once reserved Victorian culture that one epitomized England, gave way to a new and more relaxed culture. This narrative is also infused with his memories of school life, his family and friends, and the horrors of the Spanish flu and other epidemics. He also shares with us his feelings about the technological and social advances that he witnessed. This is a delightful book, and it makes fascinating reading. For many, it will be a look back on a time that they themselves witness, for others a brief but compelling look at a world they can only image.

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