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The Road to Nab End: An Extraordinary Northern Childhood [Audiobook] [Audio CD]

William Woodruff , Sam Kelly
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)

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Book Description

31 Mar 2003
William Woodruff had the sort of childhood satirised in the famous Monty Python Yorkshireman sketch. The son of a weaver, he was born on a pallet of straw at the back of the mill and two days later his mother was back at work. Life was extrememly tough for the family in 1920's Blackburn -- a treat was sheep's head or cow heel soup -- and got worse when his father lost his job when the cotton industry started its terminal decline. Woodruff had to find his childhood fun in the little free time he had available between his delivery job and school, but he never writes self-pityingly, leaving the reader to shed the tears on his behalf. At ten his mother takes him on his one and only holiday -- to Blackpool. He never wonders where they get the money to do so, only where she disappears to with strange men in the afternoons, before taking him to the funfair, pockets jingling an hour or two later. NAB END is certainly not all grime and gloom however, there's a cast of great minor characters from an unfrocked vicar to William's indomitable grandmother Bridget who lend some colour and humour -- and all against the strongly rendered social backdrop of the 1920s and 1930s.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Chivers Audio Books; Unabridged edition (31 Mar 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 075405585X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0754055853
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 18.1 x 4.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,706,939 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Extraordinarily well written and vividly told, his book is rich in characters, facts, atmosphere, and indomitable spirit. (Eric Hobsbawm, GUARDIAN)

The book is a masterpiece (INDEPENDENT)

Impossible to put down (Alan Bullock, TLS)

A wonderful evocation of a vanished age. (MAIL ON SUNDAY) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

* A Lancashire ANGELA'S ASHES, widely praised and reviewed. A fabulous portrait of working class life of the period. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History as it should be told 23 Mar 2003
The finest thing about this book is that it is a history lesson from a very personal perspective. It is an excellent autobiography and a joy to read, which in themselves are reason enough to read it, but it brings home the human cost of what may now seem like irrelevancies in British and World History. Descriptions of the scale of poverty in early 20th century Lancashire are put forward in a matter of fact manner but still they cause one to balk. If not for the spirit of the Lancashire folk one could be forgiven that one was reading about the third world.
I wouldn't hesitate in recommending this book to anybody with even a passing interest in the social sciences, but also those that like a good story. To describe it as a masterpiece is fair.
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53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life changing and inspiring... 1 Jun 2002
By A Customer
I happened upon 'The Road to Nab End' by chance and had no idea that I would become attached to the unforgettable characters that Mr. Woodruff revealed to us all in his autobiography. From the start I realized that the true events that I held in my hands were nothing short of remarkable, astonishing and at times, reassuring. As the author wove the story of the first sixteen years of his life during the early part of the 1900's, it became clear that rich or poor, happy or sad, there is always hope and always family.
Not only did I gain a better understanding of the industrial rise and fall in Lancashire, England but I gained a better understanding of human nature. At times it was hard to believe that I was reading a non-fiction book, for it truly felt as if I was reading a novel by Dickens where everyone was poor, pale, and starving.
It is a great service to anyone to read 'The Road to Nab End'. It allows the reader to watch a young boy grow up, into a brave man, in a world where growth and acheivement may as well have been non-existant. The life of William Woodruff is a history lesson to us all and his acheivements, something to aspire to.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh the memories 16 Jan 2003
If, like me, you were brought up at the bottom of the pile in an English working class northern town then this book will bring back all those painful and wonderful memories of childhood. I stood with the author in a small dingy front room and in the light of a poor gas lamp felt the heat from the fire on my front and the cold draught on my back. Although at times the book appears to ramble, most of the time I was crying for more and more detail as it is such a wonderful read. Enough said that I have already placed my order for the next installment 'Beyond Nab End' and can't wait to get me hands on it.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant piece of work 23 Jan 2003
By Muso
From start to finish I was totally captivated by this wonderful book, the characters all came to life from the page. Mr Woodruff makes an ordinary, albeit unbelievably poor childhood seem extraordinary. A brilliant, brilliant peice of work.
Definitely a book I will read again and again.
Thank you for sharing your life with us Mr. Woodruff
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I was born and grew up in Lancashire (Liverpool). Although my childhood was in the 40's and 50's (a generation later than the author) some of his descriptions brought back memories for me. The coal man carrying his sack on his back, the 'rag and bone man'. Life in a 2 up and 2 down terraced house in crowded conditions with little heat or sanitation is described in a 'you are there' fashion. 9x9ft living areas and two bedrooms for a family of six. The total absence of any kind of luxury or even the expectation of it is indeed food for thought. The image of the young boy realizing what he is seeing as he watches his father holding his stillborn brother for whom there was no money for a funeral. Brothers so hungry they are plotting in the night as they lie in bed to break into the local grocers shop to steal food to eat. This book stays with you.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Descriptions of a lost world 8 Aug 2001
This is a classic 'sleeper': I came upon it quite by chance ...and bought it on the strength of the arresting opening (the sound of clogs in the street as the workers make their way to the mills). I had not read any reviews or heard it praised on the radio. Yet it is exceptional -- no other book I have read has communicated so brilliantly the 1920s in Lancashire. The author's style is plain but a marvellous instrument for getting his message across: not a word is wasted and he has the reader hanging on his every sentence. He packs an incredible punch. The chapter on his grandmother's last months in particular is unforgettable.
Reading this book it becomes almost impossible to believe that the world described existed within the lifetime not just of the author but of so many others still living (including my father, born in 1921). The degree of poverty accepted, and the overwhelmingly patient response to it, are features of a world which seems so much further away than 80 years or so.
Surely it can only be a matter of time (and the shorter the better) before Woodruff's book is credited with classic status.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! 29 Jan 2004
Like one of your other readers, I just happened upon this book whilst browsing and spending post-Christmas vouchers. Once I started the book I found that I could not put it down, and that is not just a well-worn cliche. The author's ability to grab your attention and his recall of memory are amazing. You really feel as though you are living the book with him. In addition, he gives you a real insight into life in Britain in the early 1900's. What have we to complain about in this day & age!
I have since bought the sequel and will get to it as soon as I have finished my current book. I have also recommended the book to a number of friends.
This book is a must!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A very moving read -
A beautifully written narrative of growing up in the cotton mill towns of Lancashire during the early 1900's through to the 1920's and 1930's - the deprivations, hunger and... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Caroline Levick
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthy read !
Rarely have I read such a moving biography, auto or not. The Woodruff narrative style kept me entranced from beginning to end.
Published 3 months ago by phlar
5.0 out of 5 stars Takes you back to your childhood
This is a very good book and will tell people just what sort of life we had in the North of England. If it is just for interest read i you will be hooked. Read more
Published 4 months ago by DerekH
5.0 out of 5 stars past impressions
I enjoyed this book although i thought that the content was rather a soap opera. Poverty must have been much more
miserable than actually portrayed. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Jane
5.0 out of 5 stars A Norhern Classic
Woodruff has a great eye for detail and tells his story in an amusing well written with real feeling for the way he lived. Very enjoyable.
Published 9 months ago by Good living
5.0 out of 5 stars Road to Nab End
I am in the middle of this book, and I never want it to end. The descriptions of the times and lives of those living through such desperate circumstances are thoroughly engrossing. Read more
Published 10 months ago by J. Wiltshire
3.0 out of 5 stars its ok
started it but it hasn't gripped me yet, will give it another go got it on the recomendation lf my mum as we like similar books
Published 11 months ago by cherilyn
3.0 out of 5 stars A personal tint on tough times
This book provides an entertaining and pacey description of typical Lancashire life between the two World Wars, presented from a personal viewpoint. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Random Reader
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative, honest and amusing account of life in Backburn
This book was recommended by a friend as a good read. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recognised many of the places where `billy and his family lived. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Andrew Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Boyhood in Blackburn between the wars
An absorbing account of boyhood under conditions of poverty and well written. It is necessary to follow on by reading the sequel, Beyond Nab End, which is a moving account of the... Read more
Published 17 months ago by NAM
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