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This is Not About Me [Hardcover]

Janice Galloway
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Sep 2008
One of Britain's greatest contemporary writers brings to life in luminous prose her Ayrshire childhood in the fifties and sixties.In the first volume of her memoirs, Janice Galloway brings all the brilliance of her prize-winning fiction to bear on her own memories and vividly describes how a retiring child became an outspoken artist.When her mother left her alcoholic father and set up home in a tiny attic room above a doctor's surgery, Galloway quickly learned how to keep quiet and stay out of the way. Her mother hadn't expected or wanted another child and Galloway wasn't allowed to forget that she was a burden. Her much older sister Cora, with her steady stream of boyfriends, her showy fashions and erratic temperament, never failed to remind her of her insignificance.Galloway's childhood is defined by the intimate details of her environment, where every family member looms close. With startling precision she remembers scenes of domestic life: her mother's weekly round of washing, the sodden tweed dripping on the line; Cora putting on layers of make-up for the Ayrshire night life; learning to write - and control the often rebellious letters; the living quality of her mother's mangy old fur coat.In these cramped conditions, ignored by her elders, Galloway is a silent observer, carefully and keenly watching the people around her. As her rage grows, she begins to think for herself. Slowly, unexpectedly, she finds her voice. Out of the silent child emerges the girl who will be a writer.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 339 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books (1 Sep 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847080618
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847080615
  • Product Dimensions: 3.8 x 15.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 646,597 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Janice Galloway is one author of three novels, three short story collections, two memoir/true novels and several extended literary works with sculptor Anne Bevan. She collaborates with a variety of artists from different disciplines including composer Sally Beamish, Sculptor Anne Bevan and Typographer James McNaught and often guests on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4. Prizes and accolades include the MIND/Alan Lane Award, McVitie's Prize, The American Academy of Arts and Letters EM Forster Award, the Saltire Society Book of the Year and Scottish Book of the Year and has twice been listed as a New York Times Book of the Year. ALL MADE UP, her second volume of "anti-memoir", a radio 4 Book of the Week, won both the SMIT Book of the Year 2012 and the Creative Scotland Literature Award 2012. A new novel, set in 18th century Italy, is her most recent project.

For more information about this author, you can access her web site at

Product Description


'One of the most moving, yet completely unsentimental, accounts of growing up that you will ever read'
-- Scotsman

'The writing, like all of her writing, is pared down, chisel-perfect' -- Herald

`The memoir is a welcome addition to Galloway's varied and impressive body of work' -- Irish Times

`The year's best memoir' -- Scotsman


'The writing, like all of her writing, is pared down, chisel-perfect'

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An extraordinary portrait of childhood 15 Jan 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This wonderful book has all the emotional and intellectual impact of Galloway's award-winning fiction. Somewhere between novel and traditional memoir, she breaks new ground in writing a brave, forceful, funny and searingly honest book that is a far removed from the so-called "misery memoir". "This is not about me" is exactly that - not about one person but about how we are all are made by those around us. She writes directly from the child's point of view, sharp and clear, in rainbow colours. The characters of her mother and unhappy sister, Cora, in particular are wonderful portraits, clear-eyed and without any trace of self-pity, judgement or rancour. Music, a love of words and learning, compassion for everyday life is here writ large. "A book unlike any other" wrote Lavinina Greenlaw in the Guardian - and that's exactly what it is.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
I was blown away by this book. `This is Not About Me' may be based on her own experiences of growing up in the 1950s and 60s in Saltcoats, but in its sharply drawn, vividly realised evocation of childhood, Janice Galloway transcends time and space. I found myself reliving my own experience of growing up, as sights, sounds and sensations long forgotten came flooding back.

`This is Not About Me' is dark, certainly; it is also full of the excitement and wonder of growing up, as well as the pain and confusion. As the child gradually begins to confront the reality of what is going on around her, and to develop her own separate identity, the book reaches an oddly exultant conclusion.

If you want to read a book which will draw you in from page 1, and which will remain with you long after you have finished it, go for this one. I ordered three copies for friends for Christmas and am about to order more to send to friends overseas.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
We read this as one of our recent book club reads. We were all touched by this book in different ways which provoked great discussion and debate, just what you want from a book club recommendation. Many of us were keen to read the next installment of Janice Galloway's life story.
Janice Galloway's childhood experiences are moving, thought provoking and not always comfortable reading. She writes with tremendous skill, capturing a child's emotional landscape in an adult's language. Her words are evocative of the simple naivety of childhood as well as the confusion and fear of grown-ups and their misunderstood world. This is a beautifully written book, from the smallest details of a spider's web to the turmoil of sibling rivalry and mother love, every page is a pleasure to read. It eaves echoes in your mind to mull over and think about, what I call a proper good-read and not throw-away novel for a dull train ride.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Once upon a time in the west... 10 Nov 2009
'Magnificent' doesn't do justice to this book. That I inadvertently shouted 'No' out loud when the end came sooner than expected - due to six blank pages at the end - might give you a better idea of what to expect.

Janice Galloway's memoir of growing up in a rainy west-coast seaside town with a brusque mother and a glamorous, savage older sister does what all great books do: it makes you feel, hear and see something new to the neglect of everything else. As textures, smells and tastes are resurrected in dazzling, precise prose, you're soon forgetting the time, or missing your stop, as you are overwhelmed by the observations of this timid child overshadowed by capricious adults. Hers is not an easy story. The casual cruelties and pragmatic disregard of her family would have shattered someone with a lesser appetite for experience, so it's a testament to Janice Galloway's humanity that she renders them here without resorting to blame or reducing them to caricatures.

By the end we are cheering Janice on as she stands on the brink of adolescence, on the verge of the possibility of escape and with her staggering talent about to erupt from somewhere within her.

It deserves every literary award going.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just another misery memoir 17 Aug 2009
As a life story writing teacher I read a lot of biography and memoir but this one is definitely the best I have read for a long time. Yes it is sad in parts and Janice's sister Cora is terrifying but there are many moments of humour and examples of great stoicism. When I am teaching I do everything I can to get my students back into their child's skin and this book is a masterclass in just that. I have heard that this is the first volume of Janice Galloway's memoirs and I for one can't wait to read the next one.
My only criticsm has nothing to do with the writing. The hardback edition has a photograph of Janice squeezed in between Cora and her mother on a setee made for two. She opens the book with a detailed description of this photograph and it sets the tone for the rest of the story. Why then does the paperback version use a different picture of a little girl (presumably Janice) which is never referred to in the book? An idea from the publisher's marketing department perhaps. If so, not a very good one.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars stunning 2 Oct 2008
I loved this book. It was both subtle and descriptive. The ability to write about such a poverty stricken life without any hint of pity-searching, shows how great a talent Galloway is. I truly recommend this for a piece of hidden Scottish social history. It is not glamorized misery lit, it is a tale of a child's wonder and wit, whilst waiting to mature.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A great read.
Published 17 days ago by Miu miu Lin
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but harrowing
Found it quite harrowing but couldn't stop reading it. Was very interested to read it as I grow up in the area.
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Bookclub choice
Book arrived in a few days, and in good condition for a used book.
Book club listed read. Not a book I would have chosen to buy or read, however, the story is poignant and... Read more
Published 3 months ago by MJB, Scotland
5.0 out of 5 stars A real 'memory lane' book
Love the way Janice tells this saga. So emotive and such amazing detail.
Was that sister quite as horrid as Janice remembers? I hope not!
Brilliant read.
Published 4 months ago by Helen Smith
3.0 out of 5 stars A Challenged Childhood
This is Not About Me is the story of Janice Galloway. Born to an older mother, Beth, Janice grows up in Saltcoats in straitened circumstances after the split up of her parents and... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Calypso
5.0 out of 5 stars Janice Galloway.
I purchased this a s agift, I had read this book and found it , vry down to earth, very interesting.
Published 7 months ago by Sophia McGarrity
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I thought
This was recommended to me by a friend. I read only a little of the sample and bought it purely because it mentioned some of the places I recognised from my childhood. Read more
Published 8 months ago by M. Crawford
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book from start to finish.
This book was amazing and I hadn't expected to be able to relate so much to it as it was written about a childhood long before I had been brought up. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Ms. Nadia Lovegrove
5.0 out of 5 stars A wee Saltcoats lassie
I too am from Salcoats and recognise not only the places and people but the early life of the author and the hard but fair humour of her life.
Published 14 months ago by Jay Be
5.0 out of 5 stars Sad and funny
being the same age as Janice Galloway I could remember and relate to many of her memories of the times
Published 16 months ago by Ms. Susan J. Cooper
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