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Hopping [Hardcover]

Melanie McGrath
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 Mar 2009

The sequel to the bestselling Silvertown, which tells the story of Aunt Daisy, and all the other Aunt Daisys – the locals of the old East End.

For more than a century, hopping was the main event in the East End calendar – an annual expedition of over 200,000 East Enders out to the Kentish countryside to look for casual work picking hops and stripping bines.

Aunt Daisy was one of those day trippers. For her, the train ride from London Bridge to Faversham was a kind of magic that she always passed in a rush of sensation. To be away from the tight hustle of the city and lose herself in the open spaces and pollen mists of the Kentish summer provided her with a succour that would last her through the long winters back in London. Her delicate demeanour had never really suited the smutty terraces of the East End; rather she considered herself a countrywoman who just so happened to be stranded in the city.

Married young and yet not unhappily to Harold Baker, a closet homosexual who would never consummate their union, at some early point she wrote an escape clause into her life that shielded her from her life's difficult realities. It was this resolve, a kind of armour born out by her dreamy nature, that more than anything else marked Aunt Daisy out as an East Ender.

Thoughtful, moving and beautifully rendered, Hopping captures the essence of ordinary family lives often obscured from history during an extraordinary period in London's past. Regardless of era or circumstance, chartering the shift of the East End from a hive of poverty whose dimmed population toiled daily at the docks, to a Blitzed-out community that defiantly rose to confront the brutalities of World War II, through to the gamble and risk emanating from behind the glass and steel towers of today's Canary Wharf, Hopping stands as testament to the true East Ender disposition - an agility of spirit to endure your lot and get by.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; First Edition edition (5 Mar 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007223668
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007223664
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.4 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 183,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'One of the book's strengths lies in its evocative details…Most of all, though, this is a story of ordinary people living through the extraordinary period of two world wars, bearing the hardship with fortitude, and longing for those brief moments when they could escape.' Sunday Times

‘“Hopping” is a book of astonishing empathy, eloquence and understanding. It needs to be read slowly and carefully, as the dense network of love affairs and relations fills the equally tightly knitted net of East End streets before the Blitz. A subtle social texture develops of openness and secrecy, love and betrayal, survival and catastrophe.' Adam Nicolson, Guardian

'A sublime successor to the beautiful “Silvertown”, is a classic of its kind. Social history is personalised in a narrative that renders period detail and sophisticated psychology in a novelistic style.' Kate Saunders, The Times

'McGrath is an engaging writer who is passionate about bringing her story alive. Daisy Cromelin would probably have never imagined that she would even be worth a line in the local newspaper, yet Melanie McGrath has found a quiet dignity and honesty in this most ordinary of ordinary lives.' Leo Hollis, Sunday Telegraph

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Author

In 1997 I was commissioned to write an article for The Guardian newspaper on a little known and even less regarded part of East London called Silvertown. At the time, Silvertown, the site of the old Royal docks, was more or less a wasteland. The docks had long since closed and the area was awaiting redevelopment. Not so long before, the place had been a busy hub, part of what was, until 1968, the largest port in the world. Hundreds of thousands of Eastenders made their living there. Among them were my grandfather, Leonard Page and my grandmother, Jenny Fulcher, who owned a greasy spoon, known as the Cosy Café, on Silvertown Way, beside the vast Tate and Lyle sugar refinery.

As I became more engrossed in the story of the area, and discovered more about my grandparents’ lives, so the article gradually morphed into a book, also called Silvertown, in which I attempted to recreate the wonderful bustle of the area and, at the same time, to paint a portrait of the lives of a working class London family living in its midst.

My grandparents were typical in almost every way but one. Unlike many tens of thousands of Eastenders living in the first half of the twentieth century, Leonard Page and Jenny Fulcher did not spend their summers hopping. The annual pilgrimage to pick hops in Kent was known as the ‘Londoners’ holiday.’ Hopping was a great deal of hard work, for poor pay, but it was the nearest many Eastenders ever came to a vacation, a chance to breathe the fresh air of the countryside and return to the smoky streets of East London renewed.

Rather than write a straightforward sequel to Silvertown, I decided to explore this very East End custom. My mother, Margaret Page, had been hopping once or twice in her childhood, but, just as I had told the story of a working class family living in the docks in Silvertown, I wanted in its sequel to focus on a tale of a single family of hop-pickers. My opportunity came in the shape of a man I’ll call Richie Baker. Richie had read Silvertown and recognised in the portrait of my grandmother an old friend of his mother, Daisy Crommelin. Richie and Daisy had fled London around the time of the Blitz and passed most of the Second World War in the hop gardens of Kent. I began to add my own research to Richie’s reminiscences and soon had, in the story of the Crommelin family, a moving drama of everyday working class life led partly in the East End of London and partly in the Kentish hop gardens.

Hopping is the story of the Crommelin family, ordinary men and women living the same sort of tough, resilient, often happy and occasionally desperate lives led by any number of Eastenders born in the first half of the twentieth century. Theirs is a very common story that has been very rarely told. And that, precisely, is why I have chosen to tell it in Hopping.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great sequel to Silvertown 22 Feb 2009
If you enjoyed Silvertown, you'll love this. A sensitive portrait of the life of Eastenders, both at home and in the hop fields of Kent. As ever, McGrath vividly evokes the worlds she writes about. She draws you along the streets of the East End and into the homes of those who worked on and beside the river, making you share their hopes, triumphs and disasters. She takes you with them by train and lorry, through the night and out to the green fields of North Kent, where they will spend the Summer stripping hop bines and exchanging gossip over their camp fires. And meanwhile, the twentieth century moves on with its wars and industrial progress, changing the lives of her protagonists in sometimes unexpected ways. Read it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a wonderful reminiscence! 26 April 2009
I thoroughly enjoyed the book.Being a former East End girl it brought back so many fond memories of family life & school days in the late40s/ early 50's. Absorbing & delightful.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hopping an intersting ,factual story 29 Aug 2009
Hopping was delivered well packed and in good time. I have nearly finished it and it is well written and factual re dates of events etc. A good story about something that doesn't happen now. An ex book for anyone interested in Social history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars childhood revisited 21 Jun 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book, although about people from the eat end of London,brought back happy memories for me as a child. My family went hopping every year,and I loved every minute of it. The hop fields were opposite my primary school and I couldn't wait for school to finish, to go across the road and start picking. Thank you for such a great story .
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4.0 out of 5 stars All about hop picking 4 Jun 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A really excellent read , my partner had spent many happy summer holidays as a boy , in the hop fields in Kent , so came over all nostalgic for his lost youth! Well written and full of humour and wit , really enjoyable .
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5.0 out of 5 stars back in the good old days 5 April 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A very nice read, of the times when east end families combined holidays on the farms picking hops and having a sort of holiday at the same time, and going home after wards with money in their pockets,
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4.0 out of 5 stars Happy memories 16 Sep 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
After reading authors other book Silvertown I wanted to read this one & wasn't disappointed, very true to life as my family was an East End hopping one
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3.0 out of 5 stars Eastenders Hoppicking 28 July 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This was not so much about hoppicking as about the lives iof an extended family some of whom went hoppicking regularly and the rest of their lives i n Poplar.
I found the book somewhat incosistent, it seemed to jump about a lot (datewise) which made it difficult to follow.
I come from a hoppicking area in another part of England (Herefordahire) and the hop part rang very true.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Really good value
Published 17 days ago by Terence Cartwright
2.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as the other one where a 17 yr old ...
Not as good as the other one where a 17 yr old girl gets all her teef pulled out by a barber in a green leather smock...
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Hopping
Great read, took me back to the days when I used to watch everyone else going hopping, I never went myself but always wanted to, the other kids made it sound so exciting! Read more
Published 17 months ago by patricia turnbull
5.0 out of 5 stars great
This is a great item and I would most certainly recommend it to others.
It is worth every penny paid for it.
Published 19 months ago by ian
4.0 out of 5 stars school days
living in Kent good memories of my school days and holidays going to the hop gardens and fruit picking during the war
Published 20 months ago by ej
5.0 out of 5 stars HOPPING
Published on 16 July 2012 by patricia theobld
3.0 out of 5 stars An unusual book, well researched but rather dull.
'Hopping' is a semi-fictional/social history book describing the ordinary lives of Eastenders before, during and after The Blitz. Read more
Published on 10 Sep 2011 by Leicsliz
5.0 out of 5 stars Really Hopping
What a wonderful book - I had trouble putting it down. I did not go hop picking - but many of friends and neighbours did. I would not hesitate to recommend it. Read more
Published on 28 July 2011 by Granny Glorious
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