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Mary George of Allnorthover Paperback – 4 Feb 2002


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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Flamingo; New Ed edition (4 Feb. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007105940
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007105946
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 12.7 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,954,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Mary George of Allnorthover marks the novelistic debut of the successful poet Lavinia Greenlaw . In telling the story of Mary, a 17-year-old from a small East Anglian village, Greenlaw's beautiful and often funny poetic observation becomes apparent quickly. When Mary wakes up after one of her first late night parties, she views "where the shaggy carpet had been scorched, its nylon thread was gluey and fused". Although set in the summer of the petrol crisis in the late seventies, the tale often has the tone of a much older period, as though the village belongs to ancient myth: "Crouchness sat on the point of the estuary where clay gave way to mud." The sea air is of the kind you'd rather not breathe, and the town is "a blur of grey, like a model waiting to be painted". The fetid smell provides the perfect metaphor for the secrets buried underwater in the village reservoir, which Mary finds herself being lured towards, until she encounters the obsessive and unstable Tom Hepple, who has just returned to Allnorthover after years in a psychiatric hostel. Both Tom and Mary have the inability to see things as they are, Mary through shortsightedness and naivety and Tom through mental illness.

In a provincial setting where people rely on the routine of the Parish Council, fetes, jumble sales and scout discos, Tom is tolerated though he is unhinged, while Mary seeks sweet marijuana release with her mate, Billy, until she can move to London. In the confusing process of growing up, Mary has to choose between the snobs and the yokels, and between her divorced parents' version of events from her childhood. In her willingness to help Tom uncover the source of his trauma, she triggers family disclosures and a bigger tragedy for Allnorthover. This novel grasps cloying small-town life and adolescent self-consciousness so accurately that it makes you squirm with claustrophobic pity for Mary. --Cherry Smyth --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

‘A poet’s eye clearly informs Greenlaw’s beautifully observed portrait of Seventies provincial life. In prose layered like paint, Greenlaw conjures up the period through details that will strike endless chords with readers who grew up at that time…This is a suggestive, elusive novel, which achieves a magical effect by the gradual accumulation of images.’ Vogue

‘This is a terrific first novel, a meteorological force in its own right.’ Evening Standard

‘A composed and sensuous first novel.’ Financial TImes

‘A spacious and compassionate read.’ Time Out

‘What is most impressive, ultimately, is the strength and solidity of the house Greenlaw builds around the reader: every brick carefully aligned, necessary and true.’ Independent on Sunday


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ON 28TH JUNE 197-, Mary George of Allnorthover was seen to walk on water. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 8 April 2001
Format: Hardcover
When I read the description of the author on the flyleaf of this book I must say I feared the worst: "First novel", "poet", "lives in London". I had expected the usual unstructured "moments of being", no plot and masses of unwanted imagery. In fact this book is very well written and functions perfectly as a novel. I read one review that said that it lacked "narrative drive". Well, I found myself turning the pages more and more quickly towards the end to find out what happens and for this "common reader" this is usually a sign that something has gone right in the plotting. I was also sorry to say goodbye to Mary George herself: I really liked her. I grew up in a Scottish village rather than an English one but I recognised a great deal of the description. I have never read a better recreation of the Britain of the late 1970s. There are some excellent one off observations, for example at the village jumble sale the middle class families arrive at a certain point in the afternoon and their unruly children are noted to have "Victorian names and Victorian hairstyles" which I very much enjoyed. The portrayal of Tom and his psychosis is sympathetic but realistic. Overall, a definite recommendation.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Montgomery Snapper on 8 Mar. 2007
Format: Paperback
Unlike other `Seventies novels' I could mention, Lavinia Greenlaw adopts less entertaining and pleasing characters and story lines to present a much darker peek into a time it's hard to imagine existed. Adolescence in the shape of Mary George is troubled, crippled by inarticulacy and clouded by misunderstandings. Yeah, she's into punk, but she's only half aware of what it means; but it sounds good and seems to be the perfect soundtrack to the fallout she's living through with her divorced, but warring parents. Punk is also the sound of the state clashing with the unions, as power cuts and petrol rationing begin to test even the best of stiff upper lips. If this wasn't bad enough Mary also has to deal with her father's past and the emotional damage he left behind. Village life doesn't help as there is always someone around to rake through stuff best left alone, and as the parties and gigs accumulate we know there is going to be some sort of `reckoning'. Brilliantly and vividly created this is a fantastic portrait of family and village life, its intrigues, petty quarrels, all set in the death throes of a decade best left forgotten. If you like those `best ofs' or `top tens' of the Seventies programmes on TV this is the dose of reality you need.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 24 April 2001
Format: Hardcover
Mary George grows up in a small village and struggles to find her place given the limits of the world she's in. She is nearly old enough to leave but has to wait as history (of the village and her family) feeds the insecurities of her adolescence. Meanwhile, the local embodiment of the misfit is Tom, whose mental illness means he cannot leave but who latches on to Mary in the hope of salvation. Mary finds some salvation by becoming a punk.
The book continuously gathers pace - for the last quarter I couldn't put it down. If you know what it is to live in a village, particular during the 70s, this book won't let go of you. In the end it works because the village is a field of accurate observations of personalities, music, buses, trains and landscape as it was in the seventies.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 7 Sept. 2001
Format: Hardcover
I agree that this book sums up the 70s in an English village (a real one, not a 'heritage' one). The bonds between those who live there are strong and that's sometimes good and sometimes bad. The fact that Tom is reabsorbed into the place demonstrates this perfectly - it is how you would hope people with mental illness should be accepted, but at the same time it ultimately precipitates the final events of the book. I'm less sure about Mary herself - I need to reread it to learn more about her. And I will.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 1 review
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
An Interesting Tale 22 Oct. 2002
By Elizabeth Hendry - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Mary George of Allnorthover is an unique coming-of0age novel with a unique protagonist. Mary Beorge, a young girl growing up in a small British town in the 1970s tries to deal with here parents' separation, boys, the mysteries of her own past and Tom, a local man fresh from institutionalization who believes she can walk on water. Mary is definitely on the brink of something--she can see it and we can see it--and like most teens, she is desperately trying to determine what that is, where she fits in, who her friends should be. The novel is beautifully written, if a little slow, but still very well done.
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