Also by this author
Summer of 76Hurry up and wait


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Winner   —Mail on Sunday Novel Competition2008

Best Debut Novels of the Year   —Observer2009

Best Books of the Year   —Evening Standard2009

Shortlisted   —Waverton Good Read Award2009

At once troubling, funny and joyous, this is an intimate, lyrical and deeply moving story of an ordinary family crumbling under the weight of past mistakes.

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Isabel Ashdown’s captivating debut vividly brings to life the gentility of a 1950s childhood, the free-spirited hedonism of the Sixties, and the urban domesticity of 1980s Portsmouth.
Thirteen-year-old Jake’s world is unravelling as his father and older brother leave home, and his mother plunges into alcoholic freefall.

Despite his turbulent home life, Jake is an irrepressible teenager and his troubled mother is not the only thing on his mind: there’s the hi-fi he’s saving up for, his growing passion for Greek mythology (and his pretty classics teacher), and the anticipation of brief visits to see his dad. When his parents reconcile, life finally seems to be looking up. Their first family holiday, announced over scampi and chips in the Royal Oak, promises to be the icing on the cake – until long-unspoken family secrets begin to surface.

Isabel Ashdown is also the author of Hurry Up and Wait, Summer of ’76 and Flight.

Glasshopper Book Group Guide


4 October 2009

A beautifully poignant, multi-layered family story. There is glorious detail in the writing which renders it truly memorable. [And] I was very impressed by the masterful handling of the chronology and the weaving of the two different points of view in the story as it rushes towards its climax.

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Fay Weldon and Paula Johnson, Mail on Sunday Novel Competition

'Engrossing and moving.'  

The Hungry Reader

Glasshopper is the kind of novel that stays with you, or rather the characters and their little quirks do. Adolescent Jake is very vivid and seeing the story unfold through his eyes parallel to his mum Mary’s story works very well. The pain of growing up is captured beautifully in both cases. What I really like is that Isabel Ashdown has managed to keep a lot of family secrets buried under the surface, and yet those secrets are what drives me as a reader forward. Nothing is ever spelt out; events are implied and it’s satisfying to work things out for yourself. The end is totally unexpected and lifts the story.

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Books and Other Stories

I saw Glasshopper on the ‘just returned bookshelf’ at the library – so I grabbed it... I read and finished it in two days!


Ashdown’s debut novel is accomplished, accessible and absorbing.

The Bookbag

The beauty of Ashdown's writing is that readers are able to connect to the real characters presented and understand that life isn't always all that easy... Glasshopper is a story carried by raw emotion and the importance of relationships... her character representations, no matter what sex or age, are flawless, and her descriptions of small hometowns and country and beachside holidays create superb images to match the story... Ashdown is a definite one to watch for in British literature.

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Amazon 5 star review

Tell friends and family you have gone away, take the phone off the hook and be prepared to be completely immersed in the lives of Jake and Mary. I've just lost the last two days to this wonderful novel and I've loved every second of it. Jake, in particular, really hit the spot with me, from his love of cold November days and Greek mythology, his thoughts on Joey Deacon and Thundercats, through to some moments of real heartbreak. All beautifully conveyed by the author.

Drink and Drugs News

Skillfully written and difficult to put down... this novel is a page-turningly good read.


In Jake, Ashdown has created a beautifully realised character, totally believable as a 20th-century boy but imbued with qualities which should resonate with any reader and will surely stand the test of time... The prose is succinct and smooth, the dialogue crisp and convincing. An intriguing, atmospheric read with a healthy dollop of realism.

Easy Living

Carefully observed, unexpected and mesmerisingly beautiful.


This stirring coming-of-age novel evokes the strictures of the '50s and the tacky flamboyance of the '80s brilliantly. Narrated through 13-year-old Jake's eyes, it's a heartbreaking redemptive tale of family secrets that will take you on an emotional rollercoaster. Arm yourselves with a box of Kleenex as you'll be weeping into your pillow by the end.

Joel Morris on Simon Mayo's BBC Radio 5 Live

It’s an incredibly convincing boy’s voice; an incredibly convincing woman’s voice. It’s very subtle, and subtlety is the key to this. The tragedy is happening behind the words and behind what people are saying, and you could be forgiven for wanting to read it again to catch all the nuances. It reminded me of Iain Banks. If you enjoyed The Crow Road, you’ll get lots out of this book.

Sainsbury's Magazine

A brilliant debut.

Waterstones Books Quarterly

An immaculately written novel with plenty of dark family secrets and gentle wit within. Recommended for book groups.

David Vann

I love it. It’s a book that’s very fast and really rewarding for the reader. There’s a wrenching end to the first chapter that switches the mood and absolutely hooked me for the rest of the book.

Juliet Nicolson, Evening Standard

Isabel Ashdown’s first novel is a disturbing, thought-provoking tale of family dysfunction, spanning the second half of the 20th century, that guarantees laughter at the uncomfortable familiarity of it all.

Mail on Sunday

An intelligent, beautifully observed coming-of-age story, packed with vivid characters and inch-perfect dialogue. Isabel Ashdown's storytelling skills are formidable; her human insights highly perceptive.


Tender and subtle, it explores difficult issues in deceptively easy prose... Across the decades, Ashdown tiptoes carefully through explosive family secrets. This is a wonderful debut – intelligent, understated and sensitive.