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The Great Western Beach [Kindle Edition]

Emma Smith
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £8.99
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Book Description

The Great Western Beach is Emma Smith's wonderfully atmospheric memoir of a 1920s childhood in Newquay, Cornwall. She recalls the rocks, the sea, the beaches, the picnics, the teas and pasties, the bracing walks, the tennis tournaments and bathing parties, the curious residents and fascinating holiday-makers - relishing every glorious, salty detail. But above all this is a portrait of a family from the astonishingly clear-eyed perspective of a nine-year-old girl: her furious, frustrated father, perpetually on his way to becoming a world famous artist but suffering the indignity of being a lowly bank clerk; her beautiful, unperceptive mother, made for better things perhaps but at least, with three fiancés killed in the Great War, married with children at last; the twins, fearless, defiant Pam and sickly, bewildered Jim, for whom life is always an uphill climb, and baby Harvey, brought on the same winds of change that mean that life, with all its complication and wonder, cannot stay still and the Cornish playground of Emma's childhood will one day be lost forever.

Product Description


'Think back to the time before you were 12. Think of seagulls; sandcastles; children's voices, the roar of the sea. That image gives you the sense of release and pure joy that courses like life blood through Emma Smith's enchanting recollection of growing up in Newquay ... Emma Smith has written a book that should - and I hope does - endure as a classic among memoirs of childhood. I savoured every page' Miranda Seymour, Evening Standard 'A wonderful book, full of unexpected effects, and I suspect that it will become a classic of the genre ... there is a powerful emotional undertow to this memoir that drags you in and carries you off ... so sincerely compassionate that I honestly can't read it without weeping' Lynne Truss, Sunday Times 'Evocative, witty and profoundly moving book' Daily Telegraph The Great Western Beach deserves to become an overnight classic and to find a home at holiday cottage bedsides from St. Ives to Great Yarmouth' Patrick Gale, author of Notes on an Exhibition

About the Author

Emma Smith was born in Cornwall in 1923. During World War II she volunteered to work on the canals as a boatwoman. Later, these experiences would become the basis for her memoir Maidens' Trip, which won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. In 1946, Smith went to India with a team of documentary film-makers including Laurie Lee. She then moved to Paris and wrote the novel The Far Cry, based on her time in India. It became her second bestseller and was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction in 1949. Susan Hill helped revive Emma Smith's career: she found a copy of The Far Cry in a jumble sale and wrote a piece for the Telegraph about it. The Far Cry was re-issued by Persephone Books in 2002 Emma Smith went on to write a further novel and numerous successful children's books. Since 1980 she has lived in Putney, London.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1556 KB
  • Print Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks; 1 edition (5 Nov. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009H4276A
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #128,216 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Emma Smith was born Elspeth Hallsmith in 1923 in Newquay, Cornwall, where she lived until the age of twelve. Her book, Maiden's Trip, was first published in 1948 and won the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize. It was republished in 2009. Her second, The Far Cry, was published the following year and was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. In 1951 Emma Smith married Richard Stewart-Jones. After her husband's death in 1957 she went to live with her two young children in Wales, where she published four successful children's books, a number of short stories and, in 1978, her novel, The Opportunity of a Lifetime. In 2008 The Great Western Beach, her memoir of her Cornish childhood, was published to widespread acclaim. Since 1980 she has lived in the London district of Putney.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The perfect memoir. 10 Mar. 2010
By J. Cook
This beautifully written childhood memoir is set between the two world wars and I really cannot praise it highly enough. It is such a lovely book about a much simpler time when children really got to be just children. This is not to say that it's all picnics on the beach and midnight feasts, it certainly isn't. The author writes with real personal integrity about her parents and life in Newquay and it is never sickly or cloying. I really savoured every word and eked it out just to make it last that little bit longer. My only complaint is that it ended.....and I am now longing to know what happened to everyone. Perfect read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Memories of childhood 30 Sept. 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I found this a really good and interesting read, it conjured up the era remarkable well. Nevertheless I did have some reservations as to the authors ability to remember so much of her childhood in such details. It could, of course, be that some people do have very much better recall than others. I do not feel that this in any way detracts from a very readable and entertaining book
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Could I read all of it if I had to? 4 July 2012
I tried to read this book, again and again, because everyone else seemed to like it. At the time 'Craftlover' had not yet published their one-star review. I wish they had, it would have saved me time and irritation. So I can't say much about the content, I did not get very far. Maybe I've read too many good books (can you read too many good books?) but the writing is so .... pedestrian is the only word suitable to describe Emma Smith's writing.
Are they her friends, who praise her to the skies? On the cover I see Rosamunde Pilcher, Diana Athill, Jane Gardam, Susan Hill - don't they know any better? I can't remember what made me write this book on my wish list, was it a review by one of them? I've gone to quite some trouble recently looking for the latest Athill, maybe I shan't bother.
Never mind that nothing much happens here, excellent books have been written about the mundane. It is the lack of flow I cannot forgive. To answer my initial question: yes I could read it all: if I was very poor, for money, and grumbling all the time.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A "nice" read 17 Mar. 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this book because I live in Newquay where Emma Smith was brought up, and I was interested in reading about how life was between the wars in this sea side resort. I am unsure whether it would be particularly interesting for anyone not knowing the area and relating to the places she talks about or not.
It was a nice read - not gripping or "unput-a-downable".
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2.0 out of 5 stars Gentle story 19 Nov. 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Although this is a good representation of Newquay in the fifties - I too lived by the beach in Cornwall ay this time - I found the book rather slow and if I am honest, a tad boring.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book 26 Oct. 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I think it is the very detail and everyday anecdotes that make this book so charming and enjoyable. I find the writer's descriptions of her family and the people around them very perceptive and indeed many of her accounts, especially of her difficult and unkind father, achieve a grim humour. She captures the way of life for the family and indeed the whole community vividly and wittily. I felt I knew them and I was there - which is quite an achievement as it was all many decades ago. In this way, the author has beautifully preserved a slice of social history. I feel the book also offers emotional insight into a marriage where two people are trapped not only by the circumstances of their time, but by their own expectations and mind-sets which could still be relevant today. Definitely a book I will treasure and re-read!
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By antmo
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A great power of recall though I am beginning to find the genre of childhood reminiscence rather tedious, publishers should perhaps note!!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Frustrating ending 11 May 2012
By E Evans
A couple of chapters into this book I was tempted to abandon it, but I'm glad I decided to go on with it. It takes a while to become hooked on the characters, not least because the author writes like one of those irritating people who start out telling you one anecdote and then wander off on a tangent when they're reminded of another story. A bit more structure would have improved the flow. Having said that, she does draw the various characters with great insight and warmth so you feel you are living with them in Newquay in the nineteen thirties. Which made it all the more frustrating to get the end and find it only contained information on the author's subsequent life - for heaven's sake, what happened to Pam, Jim and baby Harvey? How did the rest of her parents' lives pan out? Did she keep in touch with Lily and the rest of regulars in Newquay? A more perceptive editor would have added this postcript; perhaps if they read this, they will on the next edition.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Remarkable Re-creation of Childhood
Rarely have I read such a convincing account of the joys and insecurities of childhood, written as if from the child's point of view. Read more
Published 13 months ago by P. Hetherington
4.0 out of 5 stars A childhood story for adults
The cover looks quite jolly but the story has much sadness through the effects of the first world war on the father - very little treatment in those days. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Paintedlady
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful Read
This is one of the best books I have read, I normally don't like biography, but this one is as satisfying as reading a novel. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Mrs. Rosemary Palmer
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read
Very informative and involving story. Would love to know more about her life after the age of 11.
She really brought this era to life.
Published 18 months ago by marybloo
3.0 out of 5 stars This is not an English "A la Recherche du Temps Perdu"...
But it has its period charms of a child's middle-class seaside life in the inter-war years recalled with extraordinary precision of detail.
Published 19 months ago by Foscari
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful book
I read of this book in the Sunday Telegraph, impressed for starters that the author was in her 90's, I sent for it to my kindle. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Fancy 2513
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely, gentle read
I didn't live through these years but enjoyed reading the details. Much of it resonated with my 1950's childhood in Kent.
Published 20 months ago by Mrs. Jane Ingram
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating
Published 20 months ago by maryrose
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful memoir
Beautiful and perceptive memoir of childhood. Delicately observed from the child's point of view. Evocative portrait of a by-gone era
Published 20 months ago by Elizabeth Allen
4.0 out of 5 stars The Great Western Beach
I liked this book because it was what one would call a gentle read, simply but meaningfully written about her early life.
Published 21 months ago by Rev. Shirley Ludlow
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