Superman, Dracula, The Avengers, Treasure Island…when you’re ten years old, you can fall in love with any story so long as it’s a good one. But what if you’re growing up in a house without books?

Christopher Fowler’s touching childhood memoir captures life in suburban London as it has rarely been seen, through the eyes of a lonely boy who spends his days between the library and the cinema, devouring novels, comics, films, cereal packet-backs, anything that might reveal a story. But it’s 1960, and after fifteen years of war repair, his family is not ready for a child cursed with too much imagination…

Caught between a sensible, exhausted mother and a father fighting his own demons, their son increasingly takes refuge in words. His parents try to understand his peculiar obsessions, but fast lose patience with him – and each other. As a war of nerves escalates to include every member of the family, something has to give. But does it mean that boys must always give up their dreams for the tough lessons of real life?

What the Critics Say

One of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time. In fact, these pages are packed with so many good lines, even the footnotes are a joy to read. …Witty and wise, moving but never mawkish, this is the kind of memoir that puts most others to shame

– Time Out –

Entrancing, funny, deeply moving and wonderfully written. Please read it

– Elizabeth Buchan –

Funny and charming…here a voracious young reader makes his great mental escape from the suburban Stalag of south London via the literature that, once he masters its craft, will lead him back to recreate this lovingly detailed past

– Boyd Tonkin, Independent ‘Books of the Year’ –

Beautiful, magical and moving

– Daily Mail –

Absolutely charming…beautifully written, with a sort of English Thunderbolt Kid (Bill Bryson) feel. Highly recommended

– Sarah Broadhurst, Bookseller –

The book is fabulous, and I hope it sells forever.

– Joanne Harris –

Delightfully written, this funny and engrossing memoir is a wonderful evocation of a Fifties and Sixties childhood

– Choice ‘Book of the Month’ –

Upbeat and forgiving…Fowler’s South London childhood was deeply weird…but the tone is sunny, and anyone who remembers Mivvis, jamboree bags, streets with no cars, Sid James and vast old Odeons will love this Sixties retro-fest

– Independent on Sunday –

A wonderfully vigorous read, confident in its total recall and acute in its deft definitions of characters.

– Saga Magazine –

Humorously recounted, Fowler’s passion for reading is framed by an affectionate description of his London childhood, adding colour to a memoir packed with anecdotes

– Financial Times –

Written truthfully and bringing towards its conclusion a moving reconciliation. It also contains one of the best encapsulations of what it is to be a writer

– The Scotsman –

Paper-dry wit and natural charm…brutally funny

– London Lite –

His book is an almost Morrissey-like lament, with a similar plangent drollery, for a sixties childhood spent in a backwater of Greenwich. Fowler has both a taste and a flair for the lurid. His mother is lovingly evoked in this memoir…here are the roots of an author who would become romantically committed to the most romantic forms of storytelling. I wonder whether the computer-driven generation will find the same solace and the kind of energy that drives Fowler

– New Statesman –

I loved Paperboy. It took me back…the fifties and sixties are represented as a golden age in which to grow up. Christopher Fowler reminds us they were not that great!

– Jenni Murray –

The misery memoir is dead, replaced by a more upbeat and forgiving take on the past.

– The Independent on Sunday –

it will delight

– New Books Magazine –