Manual A Kid for Two Farthings: The Bloomsbury Group

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And it's here the film goes badly wrong.

The soulful Kandinsky is the ultimate Jewish cliche, offering folksy wisdom in comically broken English "From a cow's ear, who can make silver lining? He teaches Joe about unicorns, the mythical beasts that can make wishes come true. So, when the boy buys a single-horned kid goat in the market, he is convinced all their troubles are over.

Posh Celia Johnson playing working-class is pretty hard to take, but Ashmore is the ultimate plummy stage-school brat - about as plausible as a unicorn on the streets of the East End. Playwrights such as Arnold Wesker and Bernard Kops managed to extract rich and complex family dramas from the Jewish East End, but British cinema has been far less successful than its American counterpart in bringing this slice of immigrant history to the screen.

A Kid for Two Farthings by Wolf Mankowitz

Perhaps demographics meant no one ever believed there was an audience for such "exotic" subject matter and the many Jews in the business didn't want to become typecast or ghetto-ised. Things have changed to the extent that there are now Anglo-Jewish romantic comedies like Richard Cantor's Suzie Gold What is depressing, though, is that recent films set in the past, such as Paul Morrison's Wondrous Oblivion and Paul Weiland's forthcoming Sixty-Six about a boy whose barmitzvah coincides with England's victory in the World Cup offer a picture of Jewish family life at least as stereotypical as Reed's.

But, strangely enough, the stereotype is almost the exact opposite.

Instead of the vibrant vulgarity of the East End, we now get stories set among respectable, joyless, narrow-minded suburban Jews who seem determined to miss out on the new possibilities of a changing Britain - though, of course, they get to learn the error of their ways. The result is utterly cheerless. A Kid for Two Farthings has many faults, but at least it has a bit of energy.

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Kandinsky wants a steam press to make his pants business competitive again. His apprentice, Shmule, wants to win his wrestling matches so that he might be able to afford an engagement ring for his long-suffering fiancee of two years. Joe and his mother both dream of having the means to join Joe's father in Africa.

  1. by Mankowitz, Wolf!
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  7. Small but meaningful desires. A Kid For Two Farthings by Wolf Mankowitz is more novella than novel, in large type and occupying only pages, but like the other titles in The Bloomsbury Group offerings, there is lightness to be celebrated amidst what could always potentially descend into peril. And small reminders of the things in life that truly have meaning, substance. What is most lovely in this short work is that the adults quietly conspire to protect Joe's innocence, his childhood, by allowing, even encouraging, Joe to believe in his unicorn Africana, and all the magic he knows it to hold.


    A Kid for Two Farthings (The Bloomsbury Group)

    Will not reveal more than this. It is a very short work after all, and we need to leave something for you to discover on your own, right? Now the question is, who is up for a little magical discovery? Bloomsbury US has graciously provided 5 contest copies for readers here. US and Canada residents only this time.