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Barry Hines - Looks and Smiles

Looks and Smiles

Barry Hines

Pub: May 2005
ISBN 1-904590-09-8

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Looks and Smiles was first published in the bad old days of the early 1980s when the nefarious Margaret Thatcher ruled Britain. High fashion was a L.E.D digital watch the size of a phone box and 23 a week on a Y.O.P Scheme (ask your dad!) was considered more than adequate, young man.

Mick Walsh, the book's central character, is a good kid who happens to be born at the wrong time in the wrong place. He wants to learn how to be a motorcycle mechanic, but bad luck, inexperience, and tough economic times prevent him from getting a job. At a disco one evening, he meets and dances with Karen Lodge whose future is similarly bleak. She works in the local shoe shop and the pair hang out with Mick's buddy, Alan who joins the army and ends up policing Northern Ireland.

As ever, Hines avoids sentimentality and tells it like it is, without ever relinquishing hope and sympathy for his characters. Looks and Smiles is a classic piece of work, a gritty and poignant bulletin from a forgotten period of British history.

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