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We Had It So Good [Audio CD]

Linda Grant
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Whole Story Audiobooks; Unabridged Audiobook edition (1 Jun 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1407476912
  • ISBN-13: 978-1407476919
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,255,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Linda Grant was born in Liverpool on 15 February 1951, the child of Russian and Polish Jewish immigrants. She was educated at the Belvedere School (GDST), read English at the University of York, completed an M.A. in English at MacMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario and did further post-graduate studies at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada, where she lived from 1977 to 1984.

Her first book, Sexing the Millennium: A Political History of the Sexual Revolution was published in 1993. Her first novel, The Cast Iron Shore, published in 1996, won the David Higham First Novel Award and was shortlisted for the Guardian Fiction Prize. Remind Me Who I am Again, an account of her mother's decline into dementia and the role that memory plays in creating family history, was published in 1998 and won the MIND/Allen Lane Book of the Year award and the Age Concern Book of the Year award. Her second novel, When I Lived in Modern Times, set in Tel Aviv in the last years of the British Mandate, published in March 2000, won the Orange Prize for Fiction and was shortlisted for the Jewish Quarterly Prize and the Encore Prize. Her novel, Still Here, published in 2002, was longlisted for the Booker Prize. Her non-fiction work, The People On The Street: A Writer's View of Israel, published in 2006, won the Lettre Ulysses Prize for Literary Reportage. Her Booker Prize shortlisted novel, The Clothes On Their Backs, was published in February 2008. Linda's most recent book, The Thoughful Dresser was published in March 2009.

She has written a radio play, Paul and Yolande, which was broadcast on Radio 4 in October 2006, and a short story, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, part of a week of stories by Liverpool writers commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Beatles, Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, broadcast in July 2007.

She has also contributed to various collections of essays. Her work is translated into French, German, French, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Czech, Russian, Polish, Turkish and Chinese.


The Clothes On Their Backs Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2008
Winner South Bank Show Award

The People on the Street:
A Writer's View of Israel Lettre Ulysses Prize for Literary Reportage

When I Lived in Modern Times Winner, Orange Prize for Fiction 2000

Shorlisted: Jewish Quarterly Prize

Encore Prize

Remind Me Who I Am, Again Mind Book of the Year 1999

Age Concern Book of the Year 1999

The Cast Iron Shore David Higham First Novel Prize

Shortlisted Guardian Fiction Prize

Product Description

From the author of The Clothes on Their Backs - Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize In 1968 Stephen Newman arrives in England from California. Sent down from Oxford, he hurriedly marries his English girlfriend Andrea to avoid returning to America and the draft board. Over the next forty years they and their friends build lives of middle-class success until the events of late middle-age and the new century force them to realise that their fortunate generation has always lived in a fool's paradise.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
43 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Food for Thought 11 Feb 2011
I loved The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant and eagerly anticipated her latest novel, a tale of the "baby boomer" generation who indeed "had it so good" and perhaps did not appreciate their good fortune.

The novel is first and foremost character driven, covering 40 years in the lives of first generation American, Stephen Newman, his English wife, Andrea, their family and friends. Stephen, son of a Polish-Jewish immigrant father and a Cuban mother, manages to dodge the draft thanks to a Rhodes Scholarship during which he meets and marries Andrea, a pleasant English girl with bad teeth. It is initially a marriage of convenience as he avoids the horrors of war but they settle into each other despite Stephen's occasional pangs for American life. Somehow, despite little effort on his part, they land on their feet, having fully enjoyed the benefits of free university education, easy access to the property ladder, free health care, job opportunities - in part due to the sacrifices of their parents' generation.

So, is Stephen counting his blessings? Far from it, he is a most unlikeable character, taking everything for granted, never satisfied with his life, completely out of touch with his own children yet berating (in private) his own parents for their lack of affection. His friend Ivan, with whom he experimented in LSD manufacture whilst at Oxford, seemed to personify anarchy as a student but ends up as an advertising executive. The only character who stands true to her rebellious student stance is Grace who certainly doesn't find her honesty rewarded.

In this very thoughtful novel, Linda Grant lets her characters speak for themselves, hanging themselves as they do so.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
As my introduction to the work of Linda Grant I found this a thoroughly engrossing book which sucked me into the smells and sounds of every decade inhabited by its characters. As a "baby boomer" myself who lived in both Oxford and London at the same time as Stephen and Andrea, I thought the description of life and attitudes was uncannily accurate - consequently I could identify with the main characters and become absorbed into their transition from hippy students to ageing grandparents.
Linda Grant's style is crisp yet detailed - her portrayal of decent but flawed people is such that I cared about every generation of the family. I felt sorry to reach the end of the book.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking and nostalgic 12 Feb 2011
Stephen Newman is getting older and is finding it difficult to come to terms with the way his life has turned out. What happened to his hopes and ambitions, to the generation that was going to change the world?

We Had It So Good follows the story of Stephen and his family over several decades during the second half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first. At times reading this book was almost like watching one of those nostalgic television documentaries that show us snapshots of life in previous decades. As the years go by we see how Stephen and Andrea change over time and have had to abandon some of their dreams - but with Stephen in particular there's always that feeling of regret, that he's settled for second-best, and he does at one point decide that "that was what life was, perennially settling for less".

The book doesn't have much of a plot, concentrating instead on painting a detailed and realistic portrait of the Newman family. Despite the lack of action though, there are still some moments of drama - mainly the types of small dramas that most people will experience in their lifetime - and there were even a few surprises and revelations that I didn't see coming.

Linda Grant's writing is of a high quality and she develops her characters in great detail from their appearance and the clothes they wear, to their likes and dislikes, hopes and fears. And yet throughout the first half of the book I didn't feel any personal involvement in their story and always felt slightly detached from what was going on. Although the Newmans and their friends felt believable and real to me, I didn't think I liked them enough to want to spend 340 pages reading about their everyday lives.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Blissful Baby Boomers? 27 May 2012
By Kate Hopkins TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Grant's fifth novel follows a group of friends of the so-called 'baby boomer' generation from their student days in Oxford to late middle age, also looking at the lives of the children of one 'baby boomer' couple, and how their lives develop in comparison to their parents.

Stephen, an American scientist and child of a Polish-Jewish father and Cuban mother, both immigrants to the US, comes to Oxford at the same time as Bill Clinton (with whom he shares petits fours on the boat over) as a postgraduate Rhodes Scholar. After a year of studious work in the labs he falls in with a group of undergraduates and takes to the hippie life, setting up a factory in the Oxford labs to manufacture his own acid tabs. Predictably he's caught and sent down - soon after he marries his girlfriend Andrea (a 'lost girl', somewhat abandoned by her crazy parents) in order to avoid the Vietnam War draft, and the pair move with their friend Ivan into a London squat. Over the years, Stephen and Andrea gradually leave hippie-dom behind. Andrea trains and qualifies as a psychotherapist, Stephen becomes a science journalist and - after a failed attempt to return to the US and get a science job there - a BBC producer of science programmes. They save enough money to buy a lovely house in Canonbury, the value of which goes up and up. Their two children go to private schools and do well. Meanwhile, as Stephen and Andrea prosper, Grace, Andrea's best friend from Oxford, stays true to 1960s socialist ideals, drifting from country to country, from job to job, from man to man and eventually returning to be taken in by Andrea, the friend she once cherished, who has turned out to be the one with the 'perfect life'.

But are Stephen and Andrea's lives really so perfect?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable and thought-provoking....
We Had It So Good is a great sweep through the sixties up to (almost) the present day. Stephen Newman is brought up in California, the son of immigrant parents. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Wynne Kelly
5.0 out of 5 stars Sorry to finish
I have never felt so sorry to finish reading a book. I shan't bother to précis the story as others have done a very good job of doing so before me. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Thorneyjane
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good read for Baby Boomers.
This book could be an enjoyable read for anyone,
but especially poignant to the 'baby boomer' generation who supposedly 'have it so good'. Read more
Published 12 months ago by fca payne
1.0 out of 5 stars Not Good
A reading group book read.
Found it pointless and meaningless, dribbling account of day-to-day nothing.
Rated it '2' on our scale. Read more
Published 17 months ago by M. A. Hogarth
5.0 out of 5 stars ...if you are a post-war baby boomer
then this may be for you...really well written...echoes of my life, as someone who benefited from the amazing education available in the 50's and 60's... Read more
Published 18 months ago by post-war Paul
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
I really enjoyed this book, it was very funny, sad and thought provoking. It is the journey of a couple who meet at university in the 70s, Linda Grant really captures the decades... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Ms. E. Nicolaides
3.0 out of 5 stars We had it so good?
It was an interesting read but I was disappointed with the end, the story started out with such promise but didn't really go anywhere. The characters were well written and likable. Read more
Published on 5 July 2012 by Cat
5.0 out of 5 stars NOSTALGIA FOR US 60 YEAR OLDS
I really enjoyed this book that took us from 'the swinging sixties'to the noughties. It was weritten with feeling and understanding,and dealt with the lifes of a group of four... Read more
Published on 28 Jun 2012 by bibliophile
4.0 out of 5 stars We had it so good
Most enjoyable for those who were around during the period. Were you there or not? Was it hearsay or fond memories?
Published on 21 April 2012 by Mr. A. L. Miles
4.0 out of 5 stars We Had It So Good
I found this book an interesting read. It wasn't reviting, but I felt the author helped us understand and know the characters. Read more
Published on 17 April 2012 by Christine Hart
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