Approximate word count: 45-50,000 words
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A native of Glasgow who later moved to England, Reilly served two years in the Royal Air Force and then went to work as a salesman, the period described in this memoir. Later in life he worked in the textile trade, for Social Services, and as a hotel owner, before retiring. He and his wife have five children, thirteen grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.
“An account of one young collector/salesman’s exploits and adventures selling goods on credit door to door in the poorer areas of Glasgow in the 50s and 60s.”
Before almost everyone had a credit card (or three), there apparently existed an alternative for someone strapped for cash to get that new TV or “radiogram.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiogram_(furniture) (I wasn’t familiar with the term radiogram. It was used in the UK to describe a small piece of furniture that combined a radio and a record player – not unlike a smaller version of the console stereos popular in the US in the 1950s.) If you couldn’t buy that radiogram outright, there were companies (the author worked for several) that had door to door salesmen who would sell you many products on credit. After making the sale, the salesman would visit each week to collect your payment in person. If you kept up with your payments he would, of course, try to sell you something else as your initial debt was getting paid down.
I found Can You Come Back Next Week? to be an interesting look at a time and place that is foreign to me and a practice I didn’t realize existed. Possibly this practice existed in the US at that time – door to door salesmen of various stripes were certainly much more prevalent –but if it did, it isn’t something of which I was aware.
Imagine your grandfather (or even great-grandfather) sitting in the recliner telling you a series of stories about his work life forty or fifty years ago and you’ll have a reasonable idea of what to expect from Can You Come Back Next Week? It has more polish than your grandfather’s stories probably would and there is a good chance Reilly is a better storyteller. Reilly avoids going off on an unrelated tangent in the middle of a story, something Grandpa almost certainly would, but the chronology of everything that happened is going to be unclear, although not important to understanding.
I did have one problem with Can You Come Back Next Week?, and it was a big one for me. This was one of word choice, using slang and words that are non-standard, at least to a North American. I’ve read many books by authors from all over the world using every imaginable flavor of English, and normally don’t have problems understanding what is being said through a combination of context, experience, and occasional reference to my trusty Kindle dictionary. That didn’t work nearly as well as normal. Sometimes a word was explained, although not always before it had already been used several times.
Uses UK spelling conventions and slang.
A small number of typos and copy editing issues.
Rating: *** Three stars