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on 23 September 2001
Andrea Ashworth does indeed provide us with a fantastic story of how she battled against the violence and hardship of a Manchester back-street life but this book is so much more than this. It's not really a harrowing 'Angela's Ashes' tale that has you shedding tears at every page turn; it's an amazingly detailed account of simply growing up in the 1970s and 1980s. Andrea was born in 1969, the same year as myself, and although I experienced nothing of her physical abuse at the hands of drunken stepfathers, her incredible attention to detail evoked many of my own experiences of adolescence that I had forgotten. She remembers amazing precise details of TV programmes, what songs were in the charts, minute details of fashions and recreates the fear and wonderment that any girl surely feels while growing up.
Don't be put off this book thinking that it will be traumatic reading - it's also packed with funny anecdotes, and snatches of dialogue from a fast-fading era.
I'm sure Andrea Ashworth's story is not one in a million. Thousands of people experience what she went through on streets up and down the country every day, but what makes HER one in a million is her ability to tell it in such a vivid manner.
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on 24 August 2000
I can definitely say that this is the most amazing book that I have ever read. For me what made it so compelling is the fact that the events Ashworth describes are that of her own life, which make the book both hearatbreaking yet extremely uplifting. Because it rings so true you find yourself empathising with Andrea and rooting for her, willing her to survive the "fire" and escape the house where her childhood traumas took place. As an 18-year-old I could identify with some of her teenage problems but also realised that compared to her I have been extremely fortunate in my life so far. If you want to appreciate what you have got, read this book. The part that affected me most was when Andrea and her sister Laurie found all the knives in the house and made sheaths for them out of sellotape and cardboard in an attempt to render them harmless, afraid that their stepfather was eventually about to kill their mother. This made me realise how lucky I am never to have had to fear for my safety of the safety of someone in my family in my own home. But I felt more admiration than pity for Andrea, who through education and a love of books, succeded enough to be able to escape from home to pursue her dreams at Oxford University. Despite the many sad events in this book, the ending is remarkably positive, with Andrea leaving home in a taxi bound for Oxford. Although it is a story of abuse and terror, it is by no means depressing. A truly inspirational book which I don't think I will ever forget.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 27 August 2011
Although I have read many biographies and autobiographies of writers and artists, I have not read this type of memoir book before - by this, I mean the memories of people who have had a terribly tough time and have managed, commendably, to come out the other side. However, a friend gave me this book saying that it wasn't a 'victim' book and it wasn't depressing, but life-affirming. So I read it and was very impressed.

The setting is Manchester in the 1970s and the author, Andrea Ashworth, relates her story of growing up with her two sisters, her mother and her two stepfathers. Both stepfathers, although initially appearing to be reasonable people later reveal themselves to be selfish, violent bullies who verbally and physically abuse the girls' mother before starting on Andrea and her sisters. This is a sad, moving tale of violence, poverty and neglect - but it is not depressing, and I feel that is due to the way Ashworth relates her story with honesty, wit and incredibly, with humour. It seems to me that in no way does she try to demand sympathy from her readers - in fact Ashworth reserves her sympathy for her poor, despairing, neglectful mother whilst she (Ashworth) determines to make the best of her life by using her intelligence and resourcefulness to escape from the situation she has found herself in.

One of the reviews in my edition states that the book is "almost a sociological resource as much as a family story, so rich is it in vivid detail of everyday life on the wrong side of 1970s Manchester" and this seems true, for although I have no personal experience of that type of background, I almost feel as if I have after reading this brilliant memoir. For me, having grown up in much more fortunate circumstances, it was an enjoyable experience to be reminded of the clothes, food and music of the 1970s - however it must have been a very bittersweet journey down memory lane for the author, and I am glad she was able to make that journey and share her experiences with us.

I was very heartened to read in the afterword (added in 2007) that Ashworth's mother is now rebuilding her life and very pleased to hear that both of her sisters escaped the `fire' and have made successes of their lives also. How all three girls managed to do so well after such an unpromising start in life is quite simply amazing and inspiring.
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on 23 April 2000
I just loved this book. It was easy to read and there were so may parts in it that I could identify with. When Andrea went to the Indian shop and tried to buy the most fashionable school uniform she could using the DSS vouchers I was almost in tears. I was that girl only ten years earlier. Her battle to do well at school and yet try and fit in with the rougher elements.Thank goodness she had the maturity to see that there was life, beyond the life ( if you can call it that) that she endured with her mother. You cannot compare this book to Angela's Ashes. It it by far the truest recollection of life within a dysfunctional family that I have read. I just hope there is a sequel.
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on 4 March 2001
From the very first line of this book I knew it was going to hold my attention. It did much more than that. It made me laugh, it made me cry and it reminded me of things I had forgotten. I was in awe of these three little girls who had intelligence, talent and amazing tenacity to see them through the most harrowing of times and hold onto the love they had for one another and their mother. I could not put it down until I had finished it and it has stayed with me days afterwards. I recommend it most highly to all ages.
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on 9 August 2000
There is absolutely nothing wasted in this book. She is an extremely mature author and I found it shocking how much of it was familiar to me from the lives of people I grew up with. I remember friends who tried to conceal the horror of what was going on in their homes and it was chilling to have it spelt out for me like this. She was extremely accurate regarding fashion and music, television etc. I am the same age as Andrea Ashworth, and I found myself smiling at many of the references. An extremely compelling book. I am thoroughly looking forward to hopefully, a novel next time.
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on 20 December 2003
As the youngest sister of Andrea Ashworth, I feel compelled to write a few words about her memoir.
Andrea has two sisters, not one, and this is a fundamental point to both the memoir and our lives - the tale of how three sisters and their mother overcame a life less chosen.
This is an amazing insight into the "reality" of a childhood of poverty, violence and, most importantly, love.
I hope readers identify with the positive undertones of this book and would like to note that the entire family have been successful in the lives we have moulded for ourselves - proof that you do not have to live a particular life and you CAN choose your future. This book is not about how bad things are but about how good they might be! Enjoy!
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on 1 February 2000
This is a beautiful book but harrowing and frustrating, at the same time. Born in the same year and five days earlier than Andrea, I have lived a very different life and feel immense respect and admiration that she survived and seems to feel no bitterness towards her various violent step-fathers nor her mother. I angered and raged against the mother throughout the book and marvelled at Andrea's constant and continued love for her. I'm glad she escaped - I just wish more people could. I feel humbled. Read it.
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on 14 August 1999
Born only a few years after the author, I found much that was familiar in the subtle detail of this book. And yet, the feeling that I recognised her outside world only emphasised the shocking nature of the life she describes behind closed doors. The narrative is well written and without exessive drama. In fact, the calm description of achingly painful situations only heightens the reality, compounding the sense of repetition and resignation that so often surrounds abusive households.
The most remarkable aspect of the book, however, is the lack of bias. So often tales of abuse will judge both victim and agressor, but Angela Ashworth manages to tell her story with an incredible compassion for all involved. The narrative, told without a trace of self pity, allows the reader into her experience and with that gives us the ability to learn through our empathy rather than simply observing the passing guilt of sympathy.
A book like this is a gift for mind and soul.
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on 6 April 2002
Having just finished Ashworth's book with a burning sensation in my throat, I feel compelled to recommend this testament to every literate person. A respect swells from inside the reader when they experience Ashworth's harrowing formative years, furtively hiding diaries of poetry under carpet flaps to the sound of another 'Dad' banging her precious mum's diaphanous head against the wall. Ashworth's words are fluid, sustained and verge on the three dimensional as she recalls the haunting memories of bathing her mum when she was too weak from bruises and welts 'of love'; I felt a twinge of guilt turning the page and laughing aloud at friend Wendy's views on Ashworth's braces and how they would keep Andrea on the shelf. All this, tinged with Gran's perfectly timed maxims that Ashworth would later come to treasure make the book timeless in its wisdom and a raw, powerful look at abuse and neglect in houses not miles away from perhaps our own.
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