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4.4 out of 5 stars16
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 19 March 2013
It's long been a bit of a mystery to me why Lucy Wadham isn't a more celebrated or recognised writer. Certainly I found her last full-length novel 'Greater Love' stunningly evocative and powerful - more so than anything Ian McEwan or Sebastian Faulks have managed in their last couple of books.

For those who have yet to discover her, this lovely (and beautifully produced) short book is a great place to start. It's less of a meditation upon the Circle Line or Tube than a deeply personal account of growing up in 70s Chelsea. I never lived in that part of the world but it was a place of pilgrimage (by Tube) for me and my mates: it was where you went to discover what was new, what was fashionable, what was 'going down' amidst the Head trendsetters of London. Wadham doesn't say it outright but for the young Londoner looking to grow wings and escape the clutches of a Straight home - in her case, a fabulously colourful but not entirely nurturing milieu - the Tube was nothing less than a lifeline.

Reading this, I found the atmosphere of that time vividly re-evoked. She is very good at capturing the questing spirit of youth, the arrogance that it needs to redefine the world on its terms, and the sadness that comes with understanding all this only when it's too late to do anything with such insight. A little gem of a book.
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on 9 March 2013
In Wadham's London of the late 70s, early 80s, the world was up for grabs. Anything vaguely "establishment" was worthy of a kick in the teeth. But, as Wadham so deftly shows, even in the maelstrom of change where her family withstands the strains of drugs, sex and Thatcher, the kids still need tending to. The freewheeling family in this book manages to both go appropriately crazy in those crazy times while they also keep a watchful eye on each other. I love this book.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 22 September 2014
This is a book that needs two separate reviews – the first being a review of the book itself, and the second being a review of the book as part of a series about London Circle Line.

The book itself is a wonderfully honest account of growing up the (almost) youngest child in a family. Elder sisters have all kinds of adventures, many of which were neither legal nor healthy. The book is set in the 1980’s of Punk and Thatcher, and although this is a point of embarrassment, in Chelsea.

The ‘back story’ of the family is explored and it’s clear that a certain kind of rebellion is not unique to this period of history. The past illuminates and informs the present. The past moves through Africa, Wales and Australia.

Its worth reading this (short) book just for this story alone – and if I read this book as a ‘stand alone’ rather than as a part of series I would recommend it highly.

But the book is part of a series – and this brings on the second part of the review.

As a book in a series about the numerous different underground lines of London the book is a disappointment. Apart from being set partly in Chelsea, which is served by the Circle Line, the underground is almost absent from this book. I have read a number of books in the series and they are most definitely not all factual accounts of this line or that line. They manage to weave all kinds of histories around the rail line in a way that this book almost completely fails to do.

So, the story itself is 4 stars. The book as part of the series is only really worth two stars.
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on 27 November 2013
Although this volume represents the Circle Line in the recent Penguin series commemorating the London Underground it scarcely rates a mention. In fact, I can't recall any specific reference to "the Circle Line" throughout . At one stage near the end of the book we learn that Lucy regularly travelled from Gloucester Road to King's Cross, and there are regular references to Sloane Square, but that is about as far as it goes. That omission, however, does not detract from the attraction of the book which tells of Lucy Wadham's experience growing up during the late 1970s in an affluent background in Chelsea, just around the corner from the Kings Road.

While the family was affluent, it was not without its problems, and one of the rime focuses of the book is the reckless and relentless experimenting with drugs of her elder sisters, culminating in Florence (always known as "Fly) becoming addicted to heroin. We are introduced to Eileen, Lucy's maternal grandmother, who had an amazing story which included knowing Virginia Woolf, running a commercial stable, living in Kenya, marrying three times and then taking a Bosnian toy-boy for the last thirty years of her life.

One does feel for Wadham's parents, having their house overrun by their Bohemian daughters' friends and submerged under the scent of their copious drug abuse, though they seem not to have been too bothered, and the overall picture is one of a chaotic but supportive group.

I found it enchanting.
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on 12 March 2013
Lucy Wadham's story describes a turbulent, exciting time. I recognize the way she organizes the world in Heads and Straights. Like Wadham, I too experienced the 70's through a youthful, voyeuristic perspective. The older members of the family were more actively engaged with what was happening in the world. Wadham shares the story of loving her family and speaks of the craziness with equanimity. Her story is compelling and leaves me wanting to know more about the beautiful albeit fragile characters.
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on 26 March 2013
A gem of a book -- I was so sorry to finish reading it -- I wanted to know more about the family and about the narrator (so much so that now I am getting all her books). The narrator has a very appealing voice -- she is honest, intelligent, witty, incisive and warm in her account of her family; she's an intelligent, sympathetic insider at a very exciting time in 70's Chelsea, where it all was happening. Unmissable.
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on 12 May 2013
I am a 90s baby; I was born in 1992, but this account of a group of young girls growing up on the kings road had themes with which i could draw comparisons to my own life. A fascinating read.

Also, you can read it in a few hours which is refreshing!
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on 24 May 2013
A lovely little book that follows the author's family tree; I read it at one sitting, in a Costa in Staines, and the excursion to 1970s Chelsea was very welcome. Heavy on anecdotes which made me want to read them aloud to friends, and plenty of characters who are indeed characters, but no plot to speak of, other than the unrolling of time. Less like the Circle Line than the Metropolitan in the way it wanders around the place. Recommended.
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on 23 April 2013
An absolutly lovely book that gives you a very real slice of London in the 70's.
A family acting out the social changes of that period, written from the perspective of a fasinated observer and then participent.
This is a must for anyone growing up during this period.
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on 17 September 2013
Like the other reviewers, I think Lucy Wadham is a good writer. What the book isn't is a direct celebration of London's Underground transport system which the series of titles was produced to commemorate.
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