I wanted to see if I can continue reading Jeffrey Archer after the fiasco with Jeffrey Archer – Mightier than the sword and I have mixed thoughts about the latest book I picked up. It was boring in parts but quite interesting in others. All in all, it was a solid 2.34/5.
This is a fairly good 200 page novel, hiding inside 600 pages. It was easy to read, but not very fulfilling. I like novels with a rich background so that you can lose yourself in the time and place. This fat novel was thin in substance. I was ready to quit on it at the halfway point, as I became tired of reading of each shop being purchased with great detail about how much it cost, and what a good deal Charlie got on each one. I continued on, and the story improved somewhat. I never felt anything for any of the characters. They all seemed one dimensional.
I did like the way that the story switched perspective from one character to another, filling in the blanks of the story as it did so. That made for more interesting transitions, but became predictable as the story progressed.
The economics of running a business. How much stock to buy, how reputation is important when you are running a grocery store, how the post war era was fraught with poverty and how hard it was to scrape together the money needed to purchase slowly houses and businesses. Becky is a good busineswoman – she is a tough negotiatior and even though she was betrayed early in love by a captain who promised her an engagement in order to get into her pants, she lets that sink behind her and rises like a Phoenix from the ashes.
All the characters are paper-thin, the book is overly bloated and so boring in parts. This would have been so much better as a short story.
First published 1991 – HarperCollins
Growing up in the slums of East End London, Charlie Trumper dreams of someday running his grandfather’s fruit and vegetable barrow. That day comes suddenly when his grandfather dies leaving him the floundering business.
“Granpa just groaned and said, “I don’t want you to end up workin’ in the East End, young ’un. You’re far too good to be a barrow boy for the rest of your life.” It made me sad to hear him speak like that; he didn’t seem to understand that was all I wanted to do.”
With the idea of expanding the business, the young man began making home deliveries.
A tragic death in the Salmon family gave Charlie his first business outside his barrow and pitch. The surviving daughter, Rebecca (Becky) Salmon, had noticed Charlie’s reputation and asked young Trumper to come in as a partner and operate the Salmon family bakery. Charlie knew nothing about the bakery business, but within a few weeks he learned the basics and took charge.
Charlie sets out to make a name for himself as “The Honest Trader” – his burning ambition is to own a shop that will sell everything: ‘The Biggest Barrow in the World’.
The brutal onset of World War I came along and feeling it was his duty Charlie joined up and spent some harrowing months on the battlefield.
Charlie’s progress from the teeming streets of Whitechapel to the elegance of Chelsea Terrace is only a few miles as the crow flies.
Charlie and Rebecca eventually married and the two of them worked toward a common goal building on the foundation they had already established. They kept an eye on local business affairs and as stores and shops became available along their block they bought them up one by one until they owned every business on the block.
Charlie’s rise from rags to riches becomes an epic journey encompassing three continents and spanning over sixty years, through the triumphs and disasters of the century, as Charlie follows a thread of love, ambition and revenge to fulfill the dream his grandfather inspired.