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Glasshopper (Myriad Editions) Paperback – 17 Sep 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Myriad Editions (17 Sept. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0954930975
  • ISBN-13: 978-0954930974
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 320,633 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

"Tender and subtle ... Ashdown tiptoes carefully through explosive family secrets" - Observer

"Ashdown's storytelling skills are formidable; her human insights highly perceptive" - Mail on Sunday

"Funny, insightful and often tragic" - New Books Magazine

Isabel Ashdown was born in London and grew up on the south coast of England. She is the author of four novels and winner of the Mail on Sunday Novel Competition. Her debut, Glasshopper, was named as one of the best books of 2009 by both the Observer and the London Evening Standard. In 2014 Isabel was Writer in Residence at the University of Brighton, where she now continues to teach on their Creative Writing MA.

Isabel is represented by Kate Shaw of the Viney Literary Agency, London. Her fourth novel, Flight, will be released in May 2015 (Myriad Editions).

You can find out more at or follow her on twitter or Facebook.

Product Description


'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.' - OBSERVER '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.' MAIL ON SUNDAY '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.' - JULIET NICOLSON, EVENING STANDARD '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.' - DAVID VANN, author of LEGEND OF A SUICIDE 'An immaculately written novel with plenty of dark family secrets and gentle wit within. Recommended for book groups.' BOOKS QUARTERLY 'A brilliant debut.' SAINSBURYS MAGAZINE '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.' JOEL MORRIS ON THE SIMON MAYO SHOW, RADIO 5 LIVE '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.' - GLAMOUR 'Carefully observed, unexpected and mesmerisingly beautiful.' - EASY LIVING '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.' THE ARGUS 'Skillfully written and difficult to put down...this novel is a page-turningly good read.' DRINK AND DRUGS NEW '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.' - BOOKERSATZ '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...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...It's hard to know who to recommend this to without encouraging everyone to go out and buy it. Ashdown is a definite one to watch for in British literature.' THE BOOKBAG

About the Author

Isabel Ashdown left her senior management job in the cosmetics industry in order to write. In 2007 she graduated from Chichester University with a first class honours degree in Creative Writing, and received the Hugo Donnelly Prize for Outstanding Academic Achievement. She went on to win the 2008 Mail on Sunday Novel Prize with an extract from Glasshopper. She is currently completing an MA in Creative Writing and working on her second novel.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Andy Dobson on 5 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
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.
Growing up on the south coast in the 1980s myself, this is one of the few books I've read that really captures the little details that make the area and the era so magical. This novel creates a real sense of place and time with settings almost as characterful as the two narrators themselves.
Writing with two voices is difficult to pull off, but the two lives are beautifully balanced. Mary, a life detached through alcohol, and her son Jake, struggling with the preoccupations of adolescence and a family that is frayed around the edges. 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 of this is beautifully conveyed by the author.
As you can probably tell, I adored this first novel and wait with eager anticipation for Ashdown's next.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Michelle Spirit on 17 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
I heard the author of this book on our BBC radio station being interviewed on a show on which they were reviewing her book. It received their highest recommendation - higher than any other book on their show, so I recommended it for our book club as we're always looking for inspiration! Well what can I say that hasn't already been said. This is truely a stunning book. I read it in just three days. The story is so tragically normal it sometimes hurts to read it. The tiny details, metaphors and descriptions created an incredibly vivid picture of the characters and their entrapment in what many of us would consider a relatively normal life. I can't wait to talk to about it at our next book club meeting! More please!!
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By J. Wilson on 15 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is ALIVE. I read it in two days. When I finished Glasshopper, I wanted to climb into Jake's world, put an arm around his shoulders and make sure he was going to be alright. Jake is such an endearing character. His mother, Mary, is an alcoholic, and it would be easy to hate her for the way she neglects Jake and his brothers. But the sections written from Mary's point of view give an insight into her mood swings and her descent into alcoholism. Really, this book has everything: teenage angst, sex, sibling rivalry, the intricacies of the English class system. And humour, too. I would definitely recommend...
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By C. Bannister TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 15 April 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book has been billed as a coming of age story, it is, but it is also so much more. The story is split between the 1980's where Jake, a 13 year old boy is coming to terms with his father and eldest brother leaving home along with caring for his younger brother due to his mother's absence through alcoholism. His mother, Mary, story alternates with Jake's. Mary starts writing as a teenage girl in the 1950's. The story explores the nature of family bonds, some good,some bad.

I would have given this 5 stars but I was disappointed by the ending, however both strands of the story are incredibly powerful, well written with the time periods being well maintained. I loved Jake's relationship with his employer particularly as Isabel Ashdown has really developed the minor as well as the major characters. It would have been easy to caricature Mary as a hopeless drunk but through her story as well as Jake's the reader gets to see that it isn't as simple as that.

An excellent debut novel.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By ARL on 18 Mar. 2011
Format: Paperback
"Glasshopper" is a book you won't be able to put down easily once you have started it. The engrossing story of teenager Jake, who aside from the usual struggles of growing up, also has to cope with an alcoholic mother and a broken home. Via a separate timeline, we follow the mother's descent into drinking. Beautifully observed and written, and left me with a few unresolved questions in the end. I will be eager to read more from Isabel Ashdown.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By DubaiReader VINE VOICE on 24 Sept. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was an excellent read, not least because I could relate to the time and place. I was born at around the same time as Mary and went to school in Portsmouth. I remember the street parties celebrating the Queen's Jubilee in 1977 and they are still a strong memory of my university days.

Jake's story is narrated, along with his mother, Mary, on two time frames, both in first person. As we become familiar with Jake's family life, we see, not only the effects of his mother's alcoholism on the family dynamic, but also, how she came to be that way. Jake's older brother has already moved out and is now just a lingering presence. His Dad has also admitted defeat and lives apart, although he loves his family and does his best to remain a part of it. Jake's younger brother, Andy, winds Jake up and plays the part of annoying little brother, although the bond between them is tangible.

Then, during one of her more lucid periods, Mary gets back in touch with her estranged older sisiter, Rachel. Suddenly, Jake and Andy discover that they have cousins, an instant extended family, living on the Isle of Wight. They travel to meet them and love the bustle of the big house full of activity.
Other characters form a vital part of the whole; Mr Horrocks, who owns the local shop, gives Jake a job as a paper boy and offers support when times are tough. Malcom, the son of Jake's Dad's drinking partner, Stu, also finds himself outside the local pub on regular occasions and the two boys become friends. And Sandy, who is a family friend and looks out for the boys when things get really bad.
I felt for Jake when his mother forgot to go to parents' meetings at school, and when he covered up for her. He's a great character, with his quirky love of Greek mythology.
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