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What the Grown-Ups Were Doing: An Odyssey Through 1950s Suburbia Hardcover – 2 Feb 2012


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What the Grown-Ups Were Doing: An Odyssey Through 1950s Suburbia + Living With Mother - Right To The Very End + Age Of Dissent
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 358 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st edition (2 Feb 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857204882
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857204882
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.8 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 379,676 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Laced with Michele Hanson's characteristic chutzpah and humanity, What the Grown Ups Were Doing evokes in compelling detail a claustrophobic but defiant suburban childhood of the 1950s'
--David Kynaston, bestselling author of Austerity Britain

'A funny, touching memoir that immerses the reader into 1950s society in an exploration of her Jewishness' --Stylist

'This is a memoir that catches the flavour of the times as felt from within... A tender tale of a young Jewish girl growing into an understanding of her noisy, quarrelsome and passionately alive family' --Joan Bakewell, Observer

`With a twist of wit, Hanson good-naturedly tells it like it awkwardly was in Fifties suburbia for a tentative but tomboyish teenager' --SAGA magazine

'She writes fluently and delightfully about suburban life in the Fifties as if it were yesterday... Beneath the surface, many of the families who seemed averagely dull and conformist were in fact averaging dull and conformist. Some weren't, as What the Grown-ups Were Doing eloquently and hilariously reveals. Often, it transpires, what the grown-ups were doing was each other'
--Sunday Telegraph

'A lovely memoir about growing up in a Jewish family in Ruislip in post-war Britain' --FabAfterFifty.co.uk

'An engaging memoir of her Jewish upbringing. She paints a vivid picture of family life' --Belfast Telegraph

'Fresh, deeply evocative and extremely funny. Michele Hanson's writing has a precision that is to be treasured and a tenderness that makes you want to throw your arms around it... Just lovely. Really charmingly lovely' --James Purefoy, actor

`In this briskly enjoyable portrait of 1950s suburban Jewish childhood, Hanson's mother is a screamer, her father a sulker, and their daughter perpetually ashamed... On the whole, Hanson plays it for laughs, but a seam of darkness runs through the book' --The Lady

Dashes of flavour mark place, as well as time. We visit the seedy Soho of the 1950s, where Hanson s father owned a belt factory and her mother opened the second-ever Soho coffee bar; and where later on, Hanson is horrified by the goings-on at the Heaven and Hell bar on Old Compton Street...The book is filled with the Guardian columnist s trademark warmth and wry humour, despite the ever-present backdrop of the recent war and the difficulties facing Jewish families at that time --Time Out

A view of life in the decade before the Sixties began to swing is provided by Michele Hanson s 'What the Grown-Ups Were Doing' , a wonderful, funny memoir of life in Fifties suburban Britain, a buttoned-up world of hidden passions and resentments --Choice Magazine

About the Author

Michele Hanson is one of UK's wittiest and most popular columnists whose funny and sensitive pieces on ageing and modern Britain strike a chord with millions of people. Previously, she was a school teacher for 25 years in inner London, and then escaped the chalk-face and began to write weekly columns for the Guardian. Her books have been serialised for radio and made into a BBC cartoon series. Her book 'Living With Mother' won MIND book of the year in 2006. She lives in north London, these days mostly on her own with her dogs.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By David on 24 Feb 2012
Format: Hardcover
I think this is a terrific book - warm and funny. Michele captures the flavour and the frustration of growing up in the 1950s beautifully, and the way one generation never quite manages to understand or connect with the other. Brilliant.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sabina on 19 July 2013
Format: Paperback
This memoir takes us through Michelle's first 20 years, ending in 1962. An only child in a comfortably off family in Ruislip, she takes us through the pleasures and tribulations of growing up in a Jewish family with her mother as the screamer, father - the sulker, and aunt Celia - the naughty fibber. The grandmother harbours all sorts of prejudices about the Christians who comprise most of Michelle's friends. Told with gentle (and sometimes more robust) humour, this account manages not to degenerate into stereotypes, and we learn the occasional Jewish saying from the footnotes.
Screaming and sulking abate when the family holiday in Cannes, though by the time Michelle is into boyfriends, a holiday with parents looks different. There are a few darker moments, but this is no misery memoir, but one to be read lightly and enjoyed for its evocation of the atmosphere of the fifties, with the breath of a new wind from the sixties about to bring more change.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Woods on 4 May 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have long admired Michele Hanson's writing in "The Guardian" and was delighted to read this account of her childhood in the 50's and 60's. Needless to say this is my own period and much of what she wrote in this memoir chimed with my own experience. This is one of the reasons why I enjoyed it so much but she writes with such wry humour and honesty that reading is a joy. I only wish she had a daily column in "The Guardian" so I could enjoy her writing each morning. Incidentally this book was read on Radio 4 and translated to radio very successfully.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Naomi8070 on 1 May 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Although I could identify very much with the time and the background, I found this book tedious, not very engaging and far too long. I know many people whose stories would make for much more interesting reading than this.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lottie in London on 29 Feb 2012
Format: Hardcover
Michele Hanson's perfect prose and piercing wit never lose empathy for those she depicts in this comic memoir. For devotees of her Guardian columns this is like getting a bumper crop in one volume. An absolute treat. Difficult themes are not avoided - this is not a two dimensional memoir where all is sunny and funny. The darker side of life is acknowledged and people are not all good or bad (though perhaps one aunt falls mainly into the baddie camp). I loved the book and would happily recommend it. I like to imagine Jane Austen and Michele Hanson together helpless with laughter at the foibles of their family and friends; I think they share the same comic vision and writing ability.

What the Grown-ups Were Doing: An Odyssey Through 1950s Suburbia.
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By MerylStrepp on 26 July 2014
Format: Paperback
I thought this would be better than it was. Easy enough to read but really quite boring and mundane. The cover says hilarious and delightful? Just pretty ordinary writing, about pretty ordinary everyday stuff, most people would have more interesting lives I am sure. Found the Jewish words and translations confusing as the translations were only on each initial use.
Would not recommend.
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By JF1000 on 16 Jun 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Not a book that I'd recommend really. Is nostalgic and main reason for buying, you can pick it up and return to it weeks later and still know where you are..
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Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed this. Hanson creates brilliantly the voice of a young person experiencing life in a relaxed Jewish household in Ruislip in the 1950s. Her mother is the real star of the book - what a character! This is entertaining and funny, and Hanson writes lovely snappy prose in the voice of someone of that age and generation, brilliantly evoking the era and the world of the 1950s. I am a little younger but I recognise well the world she portrays.

I particularly enjoyed her account of life at art school, and the sibling rivalry between her mother and aunt. Lovely.
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