'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'
'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
Michele Hanson grew up an 'oddball tomboy disappointment' in a Jewish family in Ruislip in the 1950s - a suburban, Metroland idyll of neat lawns, bridge parties and Martini socials. Yet this shopfront of respectability masked a multitude of anxieties and suspected salacious goings-on. Was Shirley's mother really having an affair with the man from the carpet shop? Did chatterbox Dora Colborne harbour unspeakable desires for Michele's sulky dad? Whose Battenburg cake was the best? An atmosphere of intense rivalry prevails, with Michele's mum very suspicious of her non-Jewish neighbour's domestic and personal habits, and Michele very wary of children's games like 'Doctors and Nurses' that might bring bottoms into the equation. And with glamorous, scheming Auntie Celia swanning around in silk dresses demanding attention, Michele has a lot to contend with. Only the annual holidays to the south of France relieve the tension.
This hilarious and wonderfully evocative memoir charts Michele's childhood and coming of age in a Britain that was emerging from post-war austerity into the days of 'you've never had it so good'. It is a characterful and affectionate look at a way of British life long since disappeared but one for which we continue to hold huge affection.