Reviewed by Alice D. for Readers' Favorite
It's 1950 in Chelsea, England, and Roy Jenkins is thirty-four years old, discharged from service in World War II and still suffering from shell shock or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as it is presently known. He goes from job to job and takes up with Gladys Blackstone on one of them as he serves as the delivery man for the bakery where Gladys works. Gladys is only seventeen to Roy's thirty-four, and they marry after Gladys finds she is pregnant. Roy's parents feel that Gladys isn't worthy of their son. Roy can do no wrong in his parents' eyes and borrows money continually from his father Colin. Roy moves Gladys, and their growing family from one home to another as they are evicted for not paying the rent. Their children are underfed and poorly cared for, often taken away from Roy and Gladys by concerned social workers. How could there be a happy ending to this?
"Downside Road" is a novel guaranteed to sadden any reader. Roy and Gladys are pitiful characters, filled with dreams and lack of responsibility. Their children, Michael, Megan, Mary, and two younger siblings, are neglected but sadly, their circumstances are not unusual as "Downside Road" is based upon a true story. Roy's inability to save money and live sensibly is captured in his favorite saying, "Today is going to be a good day". It is? "Downside Road" is well-written and its characters are totally believable if not modern day versions of John Steinbeck's characters. That Roy, Gladys and their children live such dismal lives makes this story a good read but not for those who want their stories sugar-coated.