on 14 April 2006
kate long is suberb, reading swallowing grandma and the bad mothers handbook is like a breath of fresh air. her heroines are real, real people with lives which don't revolve around the spa, the 'office' etc.they resonate with anyone who has looked after an elderly relative or small child and covers all the pitfalls without the usual 'chick lit' stereotypes (glamour puss out of depth) which frankly i feel has been done to death now its almost painful. she writes in a way that everyone can relate too and is witty without being patronizing. living 'up north' and coming from a working class background i can really identify with Kat in the book, swimming or trying to swim against the old rules of her grandmothers generation. i found swallowing grandma one of the best books i've read in a long time and i can't wait for the next one from this talented lady.
on 19 June 2005
Swallowing Grandma covers similar territory to Kate Long's first novel, The Bad Mother's Handbook, in its witty, gritty northern humour, and themes of teenage pregnancy, difficult family relationships and absence of fathers. Kate does teenage loathing particularly brilliantly. The book is also a fascinating mystery too, which keeps you guessing until the end. An ending which is all the more powerful and satisfying for the author not feeling obliged to tie everything up into a glossy red bow and answer all her characters' problems, because let's face it, with the issues such as eating disorders, ageing parents, and abandoned children, there are no easy solutions. Imperfect people are allowed to stay imperfect, just like real life. The book is believable, honest and unflinching - the sort of book I thought UK publishers had stopped allowing the book buying public to read!!! So thanks Kate (and Picador) for a great read and for not force-feeding us yet more sugar-coated, redemptive endings.
on 4 April 2006
This book was very moving and from the very first I was so immersed in the drama between the two main characters that I found myself taking sides. The blurb at the back of the book was not wrong when it described Poll as pure poison. Kate Long was so precise and accurate about this. She made you put your sympathy for Poll's disability aside without guilt because she depicted a character who seemed full of malice and bitterness, from top to toe.
The theme is the complexity of family - constant conflict, kept in check by familial love. This made it a bit too similar to Long's first novel, The Bad Mother's Hand Guide. However, it may be that this is where Long feels she is at her best so she is sticking with it. Don't blame her. Why be a jack of all trades when you can be master of one.
Well done Kate Long. An inspiration and spur in the right direction for would-be writers.
on 10 April 2009
Kate Long has written a truly brilliant book. Katherine or Kat, as decided she wants to be known, is warm, funny, fat and bullied, but somehow she manages to pull through and just gets on with things. As we all know being a teenager is not easy and for Kat its just that little bit harder, with people turning out not to be who she thought they were and then she has the struggle between running her life for her or for others. Her Grandma is horrid, but as the story unfolds you see she does have her own personal tragedies and grief to cope with.
The way the book is written is very clever, lots of different people flying in at different angles, but is doesn't get it confusing.
When you read this book (and you must), just enjoy it for what it is and don't try to second guess it.
Swallowing Grandma really is a five star read
on 25 August 2012
This book is believable and honest. I love the way Kate writes she is just so amazing. She tells it like it is, no sugar coated endings, this is a very dark funny book with very down to earth characters.
Kat the main character is warm, funny, fat and bullied but she just gets through everyday and gets on with things.
Being a teenager can be hard and it is very hard for Kat Her Nan is horrible but once you get into the story it starts to unfold and you start to see the nan has her own tragedies and grief to deal with.
Kate really covers alot of issues in this novel ranging from child abuse, incest, teenage pregnancy, bulimia and bulling the list goes on.
I really enjoyed the emotional roller coaster of this story. it is a MUST read it only took me 4 days to read.
Katharine is 17, and wants to be slimmer, to have her friends call her Kat and to escape her home village of Bank Top and go to read English at Oxford. Unfortunately, there's the little matter of Grandma Poll, who has brought Katharine up ever since her father died in a car crash when she was a baby, and her mother disappeared. Poll is determined to keep her granddaughter at her side and serving her. And Kat's a decent enough person that she might just end up submitting to her grandmother's emotional blackmail. But then, out of the blue, she meets Callum, a fellow adolescent who seems oddly curious about Kat's father - and also discovers some startling facts about her mother. Might she escape Poll's clutches after all?
This book is set in the same Lancashire village as 'Bad Mother's Handbook', but despite the often jaunty tone it's a much darker tale. Long manages to tuck in bulimia, anorexia, illegitimacy, potential incest, depression and manslaughter among the many topics she covers - along with a great deal about emotional abuse. Up to a point it's powerful stuff, and in certain respects Kat is a better conceived heroine than Charlotte in 'A Bad Mother's Handbook' (she's much more open about why she loves books and wants to go to university, for example, and more individual). Her slow discovery of the facts of her life - helped by flashbacks narrated by Kat's mother throughout the book - makes for a gripping read, and Long is admirably unsentimental throughout.
The problem for me was that I didn't feel the jaunty, rather black-comic tone of much of the novel worked with the very poignant and often quite traumatic subject matter. For example, bulimia is a very serious (and horrible) illness - I don't think adolescent girls go into it thinking (as Kat does), 'oh good - this is a quick way to lose weight and I can keep eating', and continue to treat it casually for months. The incest theme, dark as it was, was very powerful, but having introduced it, Long appears to have got cold feet, and avoided dealing with Kat's emotional responses to this further trauma. Another character's anorexia was brushed over rather too fast - particularly as they were clearly extremely ill with it. Some aspects of the plot - the strands involving 'Dogman', for example, or some of Poll's friends - got very silly, like a weak sitcom, as if Long wasn't sure whether she was writing a comedy or something more sinister. And I did feel that the end wrapped things up a bit too tidily in some ways while leaving a lot of queries in other areas - whether Kat was going to be bulimic for life, for example.
At its best, this is an even stronger novel than 'Bad Mother's Handbook', and shows Long reaching for something rather less cosy and more dramatic. But I didn't feel that the writer ever decided whether this novel was a serious examination of psychological abuse or a black comedy, which meant that the novel's tone was wildly inconsistent. Still, it definitely shows that Long is a talented writer.
Three and a half stars.
This book was full of difficult issues - bulimia, incest, child abuse, teenage pregnancy, old age and bullying to mention just a few - and it felt like all of these were handled in an unusually sensitive way, making the story feel very real without ever overdramatising any point.
I felt desperately sorry for Katherine (or Kat as she prefered to be called) but I also wanted to shout at her and tell her to stop acting the way she was. Through it all though I understood her confusion based on the continual revelations surrounding her family and her strange upbringing.
There were a lot of plotlines which were not fully explored and not neatly tied off at the end of the book - which is how real life is and I found myself imagining what happened next in the life of the various characters - one of the immense pleasures of reading!!
on 5 June 2010
I didn't read this book until in my late thirties and my only regret was that it wasn't around when I was a teenager. I worried that as a southerner I wouldn't be able to enjoy the atmosphere of such a northern tale. I was so wrong. Once I started this book I was unable to put it down simply beautiful.
on 6 November 2011
I just loved this book, it was so sympathetically written it was so easy to get under the skin of the characters. The whole thing was believable and easy to read. Not my usual reading choice at all' but I will certainly be reading more of Miss Long's work.
on 7 September 2012
So many popular fiction titles are enjoyable, funny, amusing, clever and informing. And Swallowing Grandma is all of these things. But it also has something else: tenderness. The tenderness of the writing takes your breath away. A sensitive, intelligent teenage girl and her temperamental, heartbroken grandmother live together in a bleak house in a bleak northern town. One wants to understand the past and one wants to blank it out. I couldn't put this book down. I loved it from the first sentence to the last, and not a single false note in between. Unmissable.