Published in 1961, The Day of the Sardine evokes an educational no-hoper slipping into the treacherous waters of manhood by the River Tyne.
Young Arthur Haggerston has zero educational qualifications, absentee father, a mother who gives him a hard time, and a home in a slum-clearance area of Newcastle. In his first job as a coal delivery boy he discovers the joy and sadness of sex with an older married woman; drawn by his wayward pal Nosey into a series of violent encounters with Newcastle gangs,he's forced to crawl to Uncle George (deeply corrupt foreman and Labour councillor) for manual work on the laying of a new sewerage pipe .
Arthur's Ma's lodger (and sometime lover), the philosophical Harry, whose career has peaked in a sardine cannery, fashions a lesson Arthur will finally understand: don't be a sardine, don't swim with the shoal; navigate your own way through life. Acclaimed by critics when first published, Sid Chaplin described his book as 'a social thriller' and its themes remain relevant today. Chaplin saw in Tyneside's fracturing working-class culture source material for a raw, comic, humane novel. Fifty years after first publication, it's abridged by his son, Michael Chaplin. Who has written extensively for radio, television and the theatre.
Reader: Joe Caffrey
Producer: Jill Waters
A Waters Company production for BBC Radio 4.