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4.6 out of 5 stars25
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 8 September 2009
An essential read for anyone who loves London. Up West brings alive the range of experiences of the many ,varied and fascinating characters who lived, worked and played in the West End during and after WW2. A very well written, entertaining and instructive book, which I wanted to finish, but at the same time I did not want to end. A mixture of enchanting voices and experiences, all of which I loved, and some of which reminded me of my own childhood. I am sure new readers will be surprised and enchanted by Pip Granger's vivid and lucid new book.
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on 6 September 2009
Pip Granger is nothing if not versatile - she has shown herself capable of producing delightful novels and excellent non-fiction. "Up West" is a very well-written, thoroughly researched, historically valuable and highly readable book. It is difficult to imagine how anyone could better it as a record of Soho in the mid-20th century, in all its aspects; it has an inescapable air of being a truthful record but manages to avoid the paralysing dryness of some works of this type - Pip's irrepressible wit and sense of humour are well to the fore. She has succeeded in vividly describing every facet of Soho life in the 40's and 50's, as remembered by herself and others, men and women she interviewed at length, who thought of this unique little area as home. There are recollections of great hardship, sometimes, but so much else besides. I was fascinated to read about Pip's personal memories of the many celebrities she encountered in person as a child - including the wonderful Goons; I laughed out loud at the descriptions of some of the local "characters" - and felt very glad not to have encountered the more sinister. I do not know London at all well, so "Up West" holds no personal nostalgia for me, but despite this, the book held my interest, and I am sure anyone who reads it will find much to enjoy.
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on 14 April 2010
The events are little before my time but the 50s still lingered into the 60s and 70s in some parts of London, in particular, in Soho, so a lot of the things mentioned were very familiar; though as the book mentioned, places like Carnaby Street etc were just tourist places by that time. A totally fascinating story of rationing, the markets, shops, the food, the music, the characters, clothes, living a normal life (not the usual celebrity / famous ones) etc of Soho. There are a few other books on the subject, but this is possibly my favourite (Dog Days was pretty good). The only downer being the book only contains a few pages of photos (surely someone could bring out a book packed solid with pics of Soho of the 40s 50s 60s etc?)
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on 26 October 2009
This is much more than another oral history, and more, too, than a strictly personal reminiscing. Pip Granger's own vivid memories of her stamping ground in London's postwar Soho, and her novelist's gift for language (never florid, never overstated) enhance the stories told by a series of 'ordinary people' (always a patronising phrase, but these are tales of the everyday existence of otherwise uncelebrated denizens of that cosmopolitan corner).Up West brings back to life the furniture (figurative and literal), the accessories, the flavours -all the minutiae - of a life that few of us now remember clearly. For me this work is even more powerful than Pip Granger's fictional revisitings of her childhood, combining as it does the moving and illuminating real-life experiences of real people, and the author's penetrating commentaries on that strange mix of the exotic and the humdrum that was Soho in the Fifties, a unique setting, ahead of its time, precursor of the multiethnic, trendy London of the 21st century.
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on 9 August 2011
I AM RESERCHING MY FAMILY HISTORY AND BECAUSE OF THIS FOUND A 2ND COUSIN; SHE ADVISED ME TO READ 'UP WEST' BECAUSE IT DEALS WITH SOHO & COVENT GARDEN AREAS AND IN PARTICULAR PEABODY BUILDINGS, WHERE OUR FAMILIES ALL LIVED. IT'S FASCINATING IN SO MANY WAYS AND REMINDS ME SO MUCH OF MY TEENAGE YEARS SPENT IN AND AROUND 'THE WEST END'. TROUBLE IS I'M NOT SLEEPING AS I CAN'T PUT THIS BOOK DOWN AT NIGHT. IT'S ESSENTIAL READING FOR THISE WITH LINKS TO THIS GREAT AREA.
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on 25 March 2013
Loved this book. I'm just about old enough to remember some of the happenings of the late 50's and 60's. So, to be transported back to those creative and dangerous days is both thrilling and informative.
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on 17 March 2013
At the moment I am still reading this wonderful book and I can't put it down. It brings back memories of my time in the l950s working in London - highly recommended
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on 5 October 2010
So enjoyed this book as it transported me back in time to nearly all of the places
mentioned - happy days !
Marjorie.
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on 4 June 2013
A wonderful insight into Soho after the war - disappointed no mention of Del Monico's the deli and wine shop opposite the 2I's. I understand the family business left Soho in the middle 1960's and moved to the West country, but was a major shop when I knew Soho in the late 1950's. A fascinating read nevertheless.
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on 4 August 2015
A personal biographical story about a schoolgirl living and growing up in Soho, London in the post-WW2 era. She lived in a flat with her father and attended a local day school. Her dad sold newspapers and magazines. She was a pretty girl but her mother lived elsewhere. Soho at that time had a questionable reputation for vice and prostitution. However the local community and shopkeepers looked out for each other. They knew and cared for their neighbours and their children. Women soliciting for personal business would stand at street corners or in doorways but they also kept an eye open and looked after the children. This child grew up to be a worthy adult - i have horoughly enjoyed reading this wonderful story.
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