Child of the Thirties


SKU Paperback Category

100 in stock


A Unique Piece of Social History
By Sheila Brook

ISBN: 978-1-84747-124-9
Published: 2006
Pages: 325
Key Themes: sectioning, history, childhood, pre-war, war-time

This book is a must for everyone who lived through the pre-war and war years. I found it so fascinating and accurate in every detial, and had great difficulty in putting it down even to eat. Those of us who grew up with loving parents and siblings will realise how lucky we were not to experience the lonely little girl Sheila must have been at times, and how important friends were to her. I was one of those friends and feature in the school photo in the book, and even though we lost touch in our busy middle years I feel so proud that Sheila has written this poignant story of her early life. Whether you know her or not I defy anyone not to be touched by it.

Mrs. Joan Buckland

Sheilas book is a moving account and a powerful piece of social history. It should act as a reminder of mental health care in the past, and the impact that mental ill-health can have on friends and family – Paul Farmer, Chief Executive MIND


I felt constrained to write this book for several reasons. The World has changed so much during my lifetime that I wished to relate the memories of my childhood in the 1930s and during the war years to how life is lived today. I wanted to compare the innocence and simplicity of life during my childhood and the restrictions and scarcity of goods during the war, with the complexity and materialism of life today, to contrast the broken eduction the war produced with the wide facilities available in the twenty-first century.

About the Author

Sheila Brook was born in 1931, and long periods living in other peoples homes occurred during the first eight years of her life, owing to her mothers recurrent episodes of mental illness. Shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War her mother was again admitted to a Psychiatric Hospital and Sheila did not see her again for over twenty years. Her father employed a housekeeper and Sheila was able to return once again to her own home in Kenton, Middlesex, now part of Greater London.

On leaving School at fourteen in 1945 Sheila had a little further education, which included what was then called commercial training ,shorthand, typing and bookkeeping. She then became Secretary to an Almoner at a private, pre-NHS Clinic in London before becoming Secretary to a Harley Street Consultant.

She left work when she married in 1952. She and her husband spent the first eleven years of their marriage living with her father in Sheilas childhood home, looking after her father, husband, and, in the course of time, two children. In 1963 she moved to Hertfordshire with her family, and when her sons grew older she studied and passed the required examinations that enabled her to go to Teacher Training College.

In 1971 she began teaching in a local Primary School, and soon enjoyed the responsibility for Girls games, coaching the Netball Teams for the inter-school matches and annual Netball Rally, activities that she had been unable to enjoy herself during her education, due to the restrictions of the war years. Severe, long-standing, facial neuralgia forced her to take early retirement after some years of teaching, and the satisfaction she had in her chosen career made this hard to bear. She felt that she had made a positive contribution to her pupils futures, which had been curtailed because of the constant neuralgic pain.

Sheila has always enjoyed an active life, and played tennis until she turned seventy. She attends a weekly Keep Fit class and also a Medau movement session. She spent many years singing in a Senior Ladies Choir, and enjoyed Folk Dancing until very recently. She is an avid reader when time permits, loves her garden, but now has a lesser love for the work it requires. Her marriage continued for almost fifty-five years, until her husband died from cancer in the Spring of 2007. Eight months later Sheila herself was diagnosed with breast cancer, and had surgery in January 2008. Her other hobby of doing jigsaw puzzles has not been indulged for some time. Life is too busy, and she is in constant pain.
Sheila Gaylor wrote her book in her maiden name of Brook as a tribute to her late parents. As she wrote her story she appreciated how much anxiety and sorrow her father had suffered, and how her mothers mental illness had deprived her of her home, her family and her freedom.

9 reviews for Child of the Thirties

  1. A lady …… (verified owner)

    I enjoyed reading this book and found it very interesting and moving. I admire your courage and your ability at tackling such a detailed account of your life. I wish I had your command of the English language.’ A lady in Northern Ireland

  2. a Class mate …… (verified owner)

    I have just finished reading your book and had to ring yo straigh aay to tell you how much I enjoyed it and found it very moving. From one of your old class-mates.

  3. Mrs. V. Hawkes Cornwall (verified owner)

    I have just finished reading your book and it made me remembe rmany of my experiences during the war. Our limited education was so similar. I remember learning the same poems you have quoted. Your father had such a hard and difficult life through his childhod and beyond. I found the information about the lightermen very interesting. I knew nothing this. From Mrs. V. Hawkes. Cornwall

  4. Mrs. Goundar ….. (verified owner)

    You are the first author to whom I have ever written! I did so enjoy your book. hat surprised me was the connections I made with your childhod reminiscences … the pastimes, lack of toys, clothes, and ‘treats’. I much appreciated reading the book. From Mrs. Goundar

  5. Major Beryl Warren Salvation Army (verified owner)

    I just go down memory lane as I turn the pages, and am thrilled at this achievement. Thank you for including references to me and to my parents and Regent Hall. I marvel at how you survived coping with one thing and another as you grew up, realising that your mother was confined to Shenlely Hospital all those years. From Major Beryl Warren, Salvation Army

  6. Mrs. Doshi …… (verified owner)

    ‘It was a pleasure to read this book, and it was a real learning experience. Oddly it has made me take a look at things we so often take for granted in a different way.’ From a Mrs. Doshi.

  7. Mrs. Blucher-Altona Milton Keynes (verified owner)

    I obtained three copies of this excellent book, I found it very moving and well written, and it has certainly reawakened memories thought long forgotten. Mrs. Blucher-Altona Milton Keynes

  8. Mrs. M. Allen …… (verified owner)

    I have just finished reading your book. I found it really interesting to read the memories of your childhood. What a difference to nowadays! Mrs. M. Allen

  9. Eric and Joan Pannett N. Auckland, New Zealand. (verified owner)

    I received a last week from a gentleman in New Zealand who is nearly blind with advanced macular degeneration amdHis wife, who read my book to him. The letter was sent to a mutual friend, as Mr. Pannett did not know either my married name or my address. His wife wrote, ‘ We wanted to get intouch with you as we really enjoyed your book. It was particularly interesting to me as I was a Chandos girl from 1946-50. It brought it all back to me…Miss Oyston, Miss Hyde and Miss Pike. When you wrote about the shops down the lane it was just like being tansported back to England.’ Her husband added, in large capital letters on thick-lined notepaper, written with obvious difficulty due to his near-blindness, ‘A short note in appreciation of your literary achievement. Thank you! Eric and Joan Pannett, N. Auckland, New Zealand.

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