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Once in a House on Fire: Children's Edition Paperback – 6 Feb 2004


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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (6 Feb 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330436597
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330436595
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.1 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,322,304 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Given her start in life, it is all the more remarkable that Andrea Ashworth should have turned out to be an Oxford graduate with such a compelling memoir under her belt. Her father died when she was five, her mother was left, poor and isolated in 70s, depressed Manchester to bring up Andrea and her younger sister singlehandedly. Along comes a physically abusive stepfather who sets about dragging the young family into the pits of despair, petty crime and sordid poverty. But Ashworth writes an enchanting story that blends social history (the 70s are rendered with an acute eye for detail) with poetic intensity. She turns a child's uncomprehending gaze on the domestic horrors of working- class life when it is dominated by a vicious man and drunken, self-pitying mother. We know, as we listen with Andrea, that her mother has decided to leave her man when she puts Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" on the turntable. Unfortunately, we know, too, that she was kidding herself when said man comes home and twirls her round the front room to the sound of Motown disco. We know, because Ashworth makes us re-live her childhood by dint of her astonishing gift for storytelling. --Lilian Pizzichini --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“One of the most extraordinary stories you will ever read of the triumph of the human spirit” Daily Mail

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Joanna Vaughan on 23 Sep 2001
Format: Paperback
Andrea Ashworth does indeed provide us with a fantastic story of how she battled against the violence and hardship of a Manchester back-street life but this book is so much more than this. It's not really a harrowing 'Angela's Ashes' tale that has you shedding tears at every page turn; it's an amazingly detailed account of simply growing up in the 1970s and 1980s. Andrea was born in 1969, the same year as myself, and although I experienced nothing of her physical abuse at the hands of drunken stepfathers, her incredible attention to detail evoked many of my own experiences of adolescence that I had forgotten. She remembers amazing precise details of TV programmes, what songs were in the charts, minute details of fashions and recreates the fear and wonderment that any girl surely feels while growing up.
Don't be put off this book thinking that it will be traumatic reading - it's also packed with funny anecdotes, and snatches of dialogue from a fast-fading era.
I'm sure Andrea Ashworth's story is not one in a million. Thousands of people experience what she went through on streets up and down the country every day, but what makes HER one in a million is her ability to tell it in such a vivid manner.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 24 Aug 2000
Format: Paperback
I can definitely say that this is the most amazing book that I have ever read. For me what made it so compelling is the fact that the events Ashworth describes are that of her own life, which make the book both hearatbreaking yet extremely uplifting. Because it rings so true you find yourself empathising with Andrea and rooting for her, willing her to survive the "fire" and escape the house where her childhood traumas took place. As an 18-year-old I could identify with some of her teenage problems but also realised that compared to her I have been extremely fortunate in my life so far. If you want to appreciate what you have got, read this book. The part that affected me most was when Andrea and her sister Laurie found all the knives in the house and made sheaths for them out of sellotape and cardboard in an attempt to render them harmless, afraid that their stepfather was eventually about to kill their mother. This made me realise how lucky I am never to have had to fear for my safety of the safety of someone in my family in my own home. But I felt more admiration than pity for Andrea, who through education and a love of books, succeded enough to be able to escape from home to pursue her dreams at Oxford University. Despite the many sad events in this book, the ending is remarkably positive, with Andrea leaving home in a taxi bound for Oxford. Although it is a story of abuse and terror, it is by no means depressing. A truly inspirational book which I don't think I will ever forget.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 23 April 2000
Format: Paperback
I just loved this book. It was easy to read and there were so may parts in it that I could identify with. When Andrea went to the Indian shop and tried to buy the most fashionable school uniform she could using the DSS vouchers I was almost in tears. I was that girl only ten years earlier. Her battle to do well at school and yet try and fit in with the rougher elements.Thank goodness she had the maturity to see that there was life, beyond the life ( if you can call it that) that she endured with her mother. You cannot compare this book to Angela's Ashes. It it by far the truest recollection of life within a dysfunctional family that I have read. I just hope there is a sequel.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 4 Mar 2001
Format: Paperback
From the very first line of this book I knew it was going to hold my attention. It did much more than that. It made me laugh, it made me cry and it reminded me of things I had forgotten. I was in awe of these three little girls who had intelligence, talent and amazing tenacity to see them through the most harrowing of times and hold onto the love they had for one another and their mother. I could not put it down until I had finished it and it has stayed with me days afterwards. I recommend it most highly to all ages.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Mr. R. J. MacRae on 19 Jan 2005
Format: Paperback
I bought this mainly because I saw it was about a girl growing up in Manchester, England in the 1980s. So when she ends up in Canada only a few pages along I got worried :) It's a sprawling tale and an astonishing feat when you consider she's spun an entire book out of her first 18 or so years, complete with realistic dialogue and insightful, poetic descriptions.
There is a literary approach to the narrative which takes it beyond your usual 'oh my childhood was so terrifying' type of autobiography you see in this genre. The point here being that even as a young girl she was able to use her creativity and imagination to escape the horrors around her, thus allowing her writing talent to flourish.
Two quibbles, though. First, the descriptions of her surroundings are very limited and you don't get any real feel for what Manchester was like. Second, with the narrative playing out like a novel, it's a letdown at the end when she abruptly walks out and you're left without any sense of what happens to her or the rest of the family. I guess the book itself stands as an indication of her future: her epilogue is the book itself in your hands.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 9 Aug 2000
Format: Paperback
There is absolutely nothing wasted in this book. She is an extremely mature author and I found it shocking how much of it was familiar to me from the lives of people I grew up with. I remember friends who tried to conceal the horror of what was going on in their homes and it was chilling to have it spelt out for me like this. She was extremely accurate regarding fashion and music, television etc. I am the same age as Andrea Ashworth, and I found myself smiling at many of the references. An extremely compelling book. I am thoroughly looking forward to hopefully, a novel next time.
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