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Posted May 30, 2000
Most toy-train collectors in Eastern Massachusetts (and many elsewhere) are familiar with the late Adolf Arnold, once owner and proprietor of the A & D Toy-Train Village & Railway Museum in Sharon and Middleboro Mass. However, I that many are aware of the historical details of Arnold's life. In 'A Boy Without Toys,' Arnold details his journey from childhood in Frankfurt, Germany during the Weimar Republic, through the perils of fighting in the German Army during World War II, life as a prisoner-of-war, difficult times in post-war Germany and Canada, and the final realization of the American Dream through hard work, good fortune, and more than a little help from his friends. The narrative is intensely personal, told strictly from eye level with an amazing clarity of memory. It is told almost completely in the first person, although in a rather naive writing style. Throughout the introduction and much of the first chapter, Arnold's unsophisticated composition and habit of repetition tend to make for difficult going. However, by the end of the first chapter, the story becomes absolutely engrossing. Arnold's unpretentious technique becomes an asset throughout much of the book, especially when describing the Second World War from a German foot-soldier's viewpoint. There are numerous memoirs written by American and Allied personnel about their WWII experiences, but this is the first I have run across that details the experience from the German side. One characteristic I found quite interesting is the change in Arnold's English usage as the book progresses. At the beginning, his construction is very strict, almost stilted. One can almost hear the German accent in his voice. As his tale progresses to Canada and then the United States, his English flows more freely; becomes more American, if you will, as Arnold makes himself at home in his adopted country. Toward the end, some parts of the narrative trail off into details of interest only to family and friends, but it is this contrast between the familiar details and the extraordinary events that give this chronicle its poignancy. Toy train enthusiasts will appreciate this book for the insight it gives into the personality of one of the hobby's most complex and enigmatic personalities, not to mention numerous photographs of his justifiably famous collection. World War II buffs will find it essential for the ground level description of the experience from the opposite side of the lines. In the final analysis, Adolf Arnold's life makes for an interesting story, if only because he has managed to convey to the reader his deep feeling and enthusiasm for the various aspects of an unusually busy life.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.