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3.3 out of 5 stars
Almost English
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 27 July 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
If novels have a target audience then in theory this one is for people with Hungarian Czech grandparents who remember the tortures of adolescence in the English public school system in the 1980s. It is not for people looking for a repeat of the stolen lesbian kisses in `Daughters of Jerusalem'.

Is it comedy? Yes it is really - comedy made out of domestic, adolescent and middle-aged disaster. But it is comedy too as homage to the fractured post war lives of Mendelson's family, with a puzzled look at Hungarian language and cooking, and at mediocre public schools and Sloane Rangers thrown in.

Comedy often relies on the release of unbearable tension, and for much of the novel the tension is practically unbearable. One of the protagonists asks themselves on page 53, `might I be having not a nervous breakdown, but simply a disappointing life?' One keeps hoping that something will happen soon - eventually, it does.

The novel is held together by two protagonists - mother and daughter - each facing their own personal crises. At times it is difficult to distinguish between the two voices as Mendelson switches between the two - and eventually one is drawn to the conclusion that this is not an error but a device - that the two have remarkably parallel personalities and anxieties but are failing to communicate. There is a pattern of plot recognisable from `Daughters of Jerusalem' - that of the distracted mother and the sexually lost, adolescent daughter.

The oppressive atmosphere and sense of wrong turnings (and A level choices) builds. Will the outcome be a happy one - at least by modern standards?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 26 October 2014
Terrible, boring verging on suicidal
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 28 July 2013
As anyone who has grown-up with mid-European'foreigners' will know they are simultaneously embarrassing and endearing for their idiosyncrasies, secretiveness and strange prejudices.

Only certain people are 'acceptable' and all others to be suspected and/or ignored. One never knows their full history and all attempts to elicit detail are met with heavy sighs or tears.

Add into this mix the embarrassment and obsessionality of a teenager completely out of her depth (not to mention her mother, completely overwhelmed by life) and you have the perfect recipe for a Charlotte Mendelson story.

I have read all her books and this one is as good, if not better. It just keeps going with hilarious and embarrassing episodes throughout. I felt the emotions of the protagonists and totally empathised with both the main characters.

I look forward, eagerly, to her next book.
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on 2 August 2014
Spent most of the time reading with my hand over my eyes telling the main characters "don't do it". The aunties made me laugh.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 21 December 2013
This book arrived in the condition that was advertised, which was a good thing. However I was disappointed with the book itself. Too long and whiny. I don't recommend it. It is such a shame because the premise had made me hopeful.
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on 20 December 2013
I thoroughly enjoyed this strange romp through a sector of Immigrants to Britain with a intimate coming of age tale
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on 16 June 2014
This is the best book I've read for ages, can't put it down, need to finish it today whatever else is left undone!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 14 October 2013
I read a good review of this and liked the sound of it. I ordered it immediately, and absolutely loved it.
It is quite unlike anything else: funny, touching, a truly diverting read.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a book full of wonderful characters, all of whom to some extent are outsiders who are both isolated and yet yearning for contact.

Laura and her daughter Marina, having been abandoned by Marina's father, live with her mother-in-law, the formidable eighty year old Rozsi and her two remaining sisters, Ildi and Zsuzsi. They are refugees from somewhere in the old Austro-Hungarian empire, though it is not quite clear where. In a literal sense they should be the real outsiders of the book, but their way of conforming is not to assimilate at all. They do things their way and mostly in Hungarian and in the most benevolent way possible coerce the rest of the world to go along with it - or so we are led to believe, although there is some talk of troubles when the business that Rozsi still manages, went bust and she and her husband had to sell up to a family friend. In addition to this there is the question of what happened to Peter, Laura's husband, Marina's father and Rozsi's son.

At the beginning of the book Marina has just started sixth form, financed by her grandmother, at a prestigious public school in Dorset. She is desperately homesick, embarrassed by her background and isolated. In London her mother is also in a state of misery. Her living conditions, sleeping on the sofa, keeping her clothes in the sideboard, oppressed by her mother-in-law, have only been made tolerable by the presence of Marina, but there is no way she can tell her that. This, in turn, makes Marina think that her mother no longer cares for her.

This is a situation that cannot continue. The configuration of their lives has reached a state of tension so taut that if any other factors are added, the whole edifice will collapse.

Of course other factors are added and we watch to see how long the balance is maintained before everything finally gives way. How will everyone emerge at the end? Who will be crushed and who will be stronger? What occurs is by turn tragic, funny and hugely embarrassing.

Mendelson has mixed pain, embarrassment, frustration and anger with a dark humour that is all too real. The characters she has created are remarkable. Marina's teenage angst brings back horrible memories that, as an adult, one tries to find funny. Laura's sense of helplessness and lack of will are the all too real result of being deserted by husband and made dependent on his mother, who, in fact, blames her for that desertion. Rozsi, who should be a monster, is an old woman who confronts life's problems by dominating them with her will.

The only characters who don't ring quite true are the ghastly Vineys who do not quite have the charm necessary for their role in the book.

It is difficult to describe the book as a whole - funny - sad - uncomfortable? It was certainly a compulsive read. I did not want to put it down, but I am not totally happy now that I have finished it.
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on 17 July 2014
Took a while to get into the book (halfway at least)but then I DID want to know what happened !
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