Autobiography / Book Review / Non-Fiction

To Sir With Love

My Rating*****

Life is not a bed of roses. On the other hand, it has its own twists and turns. It tests us all. There is no exception. However, if you are strong, the world cannot deter you. In fact, nothing can put off you. And, this is what makes an ordinary person an extraordinary person. This is the message we get after reading To Sir With Love by E. R. Braithwaite. One of the classics of all time, this book leaves a long lasting impression on your heart. This is the second time I finished reading this book and enjoyed it as much as I had enjoyed it during my first reading.

To Sir With LoveImage Source: Goodreads.com

An autobiographical novel To Sir With Love is the story of a West Indian young man who reluctantly ended up teaching in a school of violent students having no ambitions in their life. This book is all about author’s experiences in this school in his first year of teaching. However, there is much more in this book than a simple school story. While the author was well qualified engineer, nobody employed him as an engineer mainly because of his colour. Without any self-glorification, the author narrates the difficulties faced by him as a black man in Britain. This was the period after Second World War when prejudice against black people was a common phenomenon in Britain. Though the book is set in 1950s and many readers think it is outdated, the issues raised in this book are still relevant. You don’t believe me!  Look around you and observe closely and you will realise what I am trying to say.

The author was not having any teaching experience before joining the school. On top of that, he had to face a belligerent and loud-mouthed group of students. However, he did not get scared. On the other hand, by the very purity of his thought and motivation, he felt pursuing this career with honesty and passion. In fact, it was his faith, which gave him strength. This is how he expresses his faith.

“On my way home that evening I felt an effervescence of spirit which built up inside me until I felt like shouting out loud for the sheer hell of it. The school, the children, Weston, the grimy fly-infested street through which I hurried – none of it could detract from the wonderful feeling of being employed. At long last I had a job, and though it promised to tax my capabilities to the full, it offered me the opportunity – wonderful world – of working on terms of dignified equality in an established profession.” (Page 32)

The reader will be struck by the concreteness of this passage, by the simplicity of the line, and the focusing upon significant points of action in the incident. This is just one example. In fact, the book is replete with passages like this. Additionally, both characters and different scenes are portrayed authentically. There is individuality in different characters and we get to see life as it is lived on the road, in markets and homes. And, most importantly, there is nothing in the book which you may call irrelevant. The author seems to have chosen each and every line carefully.

Read it. It is a book with a purpose.

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