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When I was Bad

by Ruth Hartley

Biography / Autobiography The Real World

LoveReading View on When I was Bad

An interesting and thought-provoking memoir based on Ruth Hartley’s escape to London, and the ordeal she went through to get here in the early 1960’s while pregnant with her first born. 

I’m not one to get emotional over books but this is one of those rare occasions where I went through a whole roller-coaster of emotions, ranging from Sadness to happiness to even angry about some of the attitudes that people had in the early 60’s. I know some of these prejudices and stigmas still exist to this day but these day’s people and even communities are learning to accept it a little better. 

This was a very well written memoir, which I found easy to read. I managed to race through this book quite quickly. In fact I finished it in 2 sittings. This was due to the fact that I just wanted to keep reading to find out what happens next. 

Overall a very enjoyable read. I haven’t read Ruth’s other books but I will definitely be adding them to my TBR list.

I highly recommend this book, especially if enjoy reading memoirs and your looking for a memorable read.

Manisha Natha, A LoveReading Ambassador


When I was Bad Synopsis

This memoir relates the story of my flight from South Africa 50 years ago, doubly criminal because of my involvement in anti-apartheid politics and the fact that I, a white girl, was pregnant with the child of a Cape Malay and was therefore guilty of breaking the Immorality Act.

The story begins on Victoria Station, London,  as I arrive after my escape from South Africa. My involvement in politics and racial equality had led me into a brief relationship with Harun, a Muslim Cape Malay. The man who promised me help in London is dying. I am desperate. Rica Hodgson, a political exile and communist at the Defence and Aid Fund finds me a bed for the night but my political experience was in a Marxist cell not part of the African National Congress so I don’t fit in with the exiled South Africans in London. Rica puts me in touch with the Council for the Unmarried Mother. I work as an au pair but my independent spirit gets me sacked. 

I recount the saga of my move from place to place and lover to lover, first in search of the ideal of justice in South Africa, then in search of a safe and stable home for me and my baby in London. Woven into the story are illustrations of the racism and sexism of the vanished apartheid era and the contradictions of life in the sixties in London as well as my own thoughts on sex, love and feminism. I meet Mike, a Jewish medical student who offers me a room in his flat. We become lovers. He is with me when my baby girl is born. We are happy but I am socially unacceptable and not Jewish. Mike uses the first computer dating service to dump me.  I move to Brixton into a winter of isolation, poverty and depression where I am raped by an ex-boyfriend. 

Gradually I recover and I am making plans to share with another single mother when Mike comes back into my life. He helps me find a flat in West Hampstead and my life becomes more hopeful.

When I was Bad Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title. You can click here to read the full reviews.

When I Was Bad is the memoir of a young pregnant woman who left South Africa to embark on a new life in London in the 1960s. It’s a thought-provoking insight into South African culture, and I was fascinated by the author’s experiences of living under apartheid rule. Full review

Victoria Goldman

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 2265729862248
Publication date: 01/04/2019
Publisher: Independently published
Format: Paperback

Book Information

ISBN: 2265729862248
Publication date: 1st April 2019
Author: Ruth Hartley
Publisher: Independently published
Format: Paperback
Genres: Biography / Autobiography, Indie Books We Love, The Real World,

About Ruth Hartley

I write and paint because I am a storyteller. I have always made stories, though at times I’ve been lost for direction, identity and method. I paint to explore and share ideas and feelings. I have lived and worked in several countries. In my art and my writing, I draw on my own stories and those of the fascinating and extraordinary people I’ve met. Through my four remarkable children and my grandson, I am connected to other generations and enriched by different cultures and ways of being. My stories explore connections, conflict, creativity and communication. I ...

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