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
Bookersatz4 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.View source
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.
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.
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.
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.
Waterstones Books Quarterly
An immaculately written novel with plenty of dark family secrets and gentle wit within. Recommended for book groups.
A brilliant debut.
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.
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.
Carefully observed, unexpected and mesmerisingly beautiful.