After the first 20 pages of reading ANYTHING GOES, I found it was hard to put the book down and I read about half of it during course breaks, in the tube and even took bus from Marylebone to Hyde Park Corner as that way I could have a longer uninterrupted session with the book than by taking the tube and having to change trains.
As the fifth instalment in the Billy Saga all the ingredients were there. The book had the trademark subtle humour like the preceding volumes - some of the bits that made me laugh aloud included poor Laura's 40th birthday, Billy finally finding a customer for his staff improvement business (talk about a dead end job!), the Christmas decorations auction scene, Tommy in Billy's 'back garden' etc. The sadness and life's disappointments were there too. On the whole, I felt that this volume was a little bit more serious in tone, as it tackled the big issues of life, death and the purpose of it all, but like its predecessors left a warm feeling behind: its not the life's big drama, but the little glimpses of sunshine that matter in the end. The ending was good, bringing the book a full circle to where it all began. The five books together are like a string of pearls, each little passage small and maybe insignificant on its own, but together they build up to something valuable and beautiful. I think a big attraction of the whole series is in that they describe ordinary life - the sort of things that can and have happened to all of us - and convey a strong message that by applying humour and working together nothing is too big to be tackled. That is not a bad message to be sending out. Congratulations on another first-class read.
It took me two days to read your book. It was like a roast dinner you did not want to finish...or a night out that you want to last for ever. I know you have put your heart and soul into this book. As much as I know it is fact/fiction, I would love to know which parts are fiction with your children and how they all ended up. I felt so sorry for Billy. I was surprised that he didn't sack that awkward teacher in Scotland.
In the book there was not one swear word and no sex, proving that a book can still be written so beautifully.
There I was in a bar last night and I met this chap who told me he had read one of your books.....Our Kid. I asked him if he was pleased. ‘Why yes,’ he said, so l then went on to give him the order in which he should read the rest. Needless to say, he loved Our Kid.
Billy this book is just as good as the rest. I loved every second of it. I was born in 57, so l was between your two youngest.
What memories you conjured up! Angel Delight and other foods and Butterscotch was my favourite as well.
My only worry Billy is that you seem to have truly ended the series, as the last chapter shows. Please tell me you have not.
Thank you for giving me the pleasure of another book. I am not very good, at writing what l feel. I see these people’s book reviews, and wonder if I should I copy one, but in the end, and not through laziness, I went against the idea, and have just told you what I think. I just wanted to keep the book like you do savings in a bank, and keep it. But greedy as l am l had to read it. Why do books as great as yours have to end? Yes I am sad because I have now finished all five books.
Best Wishes, Robert Splaine, Rhyl, North Wales
Just finished your latest book ANYTHING GOES. A really good read. I rank it with Kate's Story and Our Kid as one of the top three. The incident Moss Side and the witnesses is a real Manchester touch.
Fr. Martin Saunders, Accrington, Lancs.
I have just finished reading ANYTHING GOES and it was absolutely brilliant. It makes me feel positive about bringing up my own children! I know last time I e-mailed you I addressed you as Billy but now having read Anything Goes I feel that I should call you Mr Hopkins!! (I am not saying you are getting old just more distinguished and deserving of title!!!!). I shall come along to the signing at Ottakars in Oldham when you come. I really don't want to give the library the book back because it was brand spanking new and I was the first to borrow it and there is nothing like a brand new book!
I must congratulate you on your writing. I would love to be able to write and when I finished the book I felt a little guilty that I had read it so quickly but I just couldn't put it down. I kept finding minutes here and there between making meals and changing nappies etc!! I felt guilty because of all the effort it must take for you to actually write a book that I was in some way being disrespectful not taking my time - must be the Catholic upbringing! You have a rare talent and the books make one feel happy and glad to be here even when reading the sad parts because you have a wonderful way of keeping things simple and in perspective. I can't think of a posh way to say how reading all of your books made me feel so I will just tell you they made be feel happy, sad and above all warm and glowing - if that makes sense.
Anyway, once again thank you so much for putting pen to paper. Hope to meet you when you visit Oldham.
Kind regards, Debbie Rogers, Oldham
The Billy Hopkins canon now extends to five books in all: OUR KID, HIGH HOPES, KATE’S STORY, GOING PLACES – and ANYTHING GOES, where, as ever, Billy Hopkins’ irrepressible good humour and personal philosophy of life shine through from first to last, with some tremendous put-down lines of which my personal favourite is: ‘I’m an atheist, thank God!’
If there really is (pace, Booker prize winner Arundhati Roy) a God of Small Things, then Billy Hopkins is his Recording Angel, reeling off for us here a veritable kaleidoscope of personalities, items and artefacts that make us feel positively homesick for the 1960s when mayhem on our city streets was so monumentally minimal...
A car called the Morris Oxford, Ken Dodd and Tommy Cooper in their prime, a Crombie overcoat, the Christmas grotto at Lewis’s on Market Street, a Lego kit, midnight Mass, a pub called the Pineapple behind Granada Studios, expensive housing at £5,000 a throw, Dave Brubeck’s ‘Take Five’, a crate of Boddington’s ale, Angel Delight, a pressure cooker in the kitchen, Joan Baez singing ‘We Shall Overcome’...
Infectiously-rooted throughout in a Mancunian-based wistfulness, ANYTHING GOES, fondly beats the bounds of this vanished age which, notwithstanding the knee-jerk New Age philosophies beating at his gate, is replete still (while Billy Hopkins has any say in the matter) with true compassion, the laughter of innocents, and down-to-earth common sense.
Bill Keeth, author of EVERY STREET IN MANCHESTER