Gorton, Manchester. 1930. Greyhound racing at Belle Vue, the buses going up and down Hyde Road, the siren of Peacock's foundry going off every night at six. This is Bessie and Sam Holloway's place, home for Nell and little brother Bobby and older step-child Violet. Precious visits from Dad's sister Benny, a Queen of the music hall trailing clouds of glory and whisky, provide infrequent brushes with glamour. 'Alright for some,' grunts Bessie. Nell grows up to work in a factory and there, from the tailgate of a truck in the yard, she first hears fellow factory worker Harry Caplin play trombone break on the old jazz classic, Clarinet Marmalade. Harry's talent will take him far and introduce him to such jazz legends as Louis Armstrong and Jack Teagarden; but not as far as poor feckless Bobby, who finds himself fighting in the jungles of Malaya. Spanning the twentieth century, this is a poignant story about a brother and a sister and three generations of a northern working-class family.
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(196mm x 128mm x 27mm)
Virago Press Ltd
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Country of Publication:
UK Kirkus Review »
The award-winning author Carol Birch is a writer of immense talent who has been described as 'one of Britain's best-kept secrets', and this book confirms the power of her writing skills. The book opens on a morning in Rome when Jack, hiding in a sleepy corner of the library, receives a telephone call telling of his mother's stroke. He is stirred from his apathy and returns home to England to the memories of the family he left behind. This is a long and powerful tale of three generations of a northern working-class family. Beautifully descriptive and capturing a profound sense of time and place, the story gives each of the characters time in the spotlight, creating a tableau of vivid personalities. Each chapter provides a snapshot of their daily lives, the sights, the sounds and the emotional ups and downs. There is the tragic and colourful Auntie Bennet who shamed the older generation by 'going on the stage' but who charms the children with her warmth and her amazing juggling skills. Then there's Nelly's Dad who drinks too much but is loving and understanding, her moaning mother, handsome and loveable little brother Bobby and Violet, the sentimental one who is never fully accepted. And Nelly herself, Jack's mother, seen again as a young girl, wistfully aware that she is 'not a chosen kind of person'. There are boiled egg and soldier teas, days out in Blackpool with jazz on the pier, ball games on the beach and Charlie Chaplin at the pictures. The characters are so skilfully drawn that they seem to breathe with the reader. This is a warm and colourful story, told with unsentimental nostalgia. Rich in details of Britain's unique social history, it recreates a slower and simpler age, following one family's journey into a new era as they attempt to reconcile their past and present. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Carol Birch
Carol Birch was born in 1951 in Manchester and went to Keele University. For her first novel, LIFE IN THE PALACE, she won the 1988 David Higham Award for the Best First Novel of the Year. In 1991 she won the prestigious Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize with THE FOG LINE.