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Grace Williams Says It Loud Hardcover – 10 Jun 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 68 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre (10 Jun. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1444703994
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444703993
  • Product Dimensions: 15 x 22.1 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 777,395 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'Startlingly assured, poetic and engaging - GRACE WILLIAMS SAYS IT LOUD introduces a new voice, one which I have no doubt we will be hearing much more of; I read it in two sittings, and am already looking forward to her next work.' (Patrick McCabe)

'Mesmerising... an incredible journey through love, loss, bittersweet triumph and disaster'. (Sunday Herald)

'There is tenderness, joy, romance (not to mention inventive sex) and heartbreak. The language is tricksy, the subject disturbing. But this book is energetic, passionate and not easily forgotten.' (Sunday Times)

'A quirky and clever debut... this is an honest and witty insight into mental illness.' (Stylist)

Grace's story from child to adult, told to stunning effect. Beautifully written, funny, sad and unforgettable, a love story like no other, it could be your book of the year. (Choice)

'In her protagonist, Grace Williams, debut novelist Emma Henderson has created a complex and compelling character...although Grace can only speak in two-syllable sentences, Henderson's use of first-person narrative reveals her vibrant inner life. The skilfully constructed word-play, repetition and rhythm of Grace's voice are perceptive, poetic and often funny...This dynamic first novel is reassuringly upbeat.' (Independent)

Book Description

A startling, first-person debut and a unique, spirit-soaring love story.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I bought this book after listening to Emma Henderson on the radio. If you want an easy and unchallenging read then this is not for you. The author dazzles you with the experiences of the profoundly disabled Grace with her family at home and then at the Briar, a lumbering institution set in post-war Britain. Her world is one of monotony punctuated with jaw-dropping abuse and neglect, yet at the same time she lives in a blighted paradise of hilarity, of companionship, of tenderness and of love. With beautifully-wrought prose and an almost Asperger's attention to period detail, Emma Henderson grips you and shakes you, like Gunter Gras in The Tin Drum and Edgar Allen Poe in Fall of the House of Usher, and she will not let you go until you have finished, drained and so full of admiration.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an unsentimental account of a child with profound disabilities growing up and coming of age in institutions in the 1950s and 60s, and then finally settling into what is called `supported living'. It also details the impact that her disability has on her family. Grace, the narrator, recounts her story with no holds barred. She doesn't shy from letting us know about the messy practicalities of struggling with bodily functions and physical intimacy. Don't expect some coy or sanitised version of disability.

The physical, sexual and emotional abuse that Grace suffers is described graphically but in a way that is a million miles from the misery memoirs that utilise these things as their stock-in trade. Of course it isn't a genuine memoir though Emma Henderson makes a convincing stab at recreating one in what is, apparently, a creative rendering of the life of her own disabled sister.

The novel's matter-of fact tone renders it all the more powerful. Grace becomes almost inured to the casual cruelty she endures on a daily basis with little expectation of being treated any better, or of others recognising her intelligence or humanity. Fortunately she encounters a small number of people sensitive enough to see beyond her disability and these relationships help sustain her. Movingly, she discovers what it is to love and be loved.

Institutional life inevitably takes its toll on Grace and at times her behaviour appears to others to be challenging and bizarre, but mostly it is borne out of sheer frustration and pain.

In terms of awareness-raising it's a very worthy and worthwhile novel, but is it any good? Yes, thankfully, it is. It is wonderfully descriptive and honest. The language fizzes with originality.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I wanted to adore this book, really I did- but I couldn't. I found it such a struggle to get into and nearly gave up on it several times. This book had the potential to be really fantastic, but for me it's distinctly average. After seeing other five star reviews on here, I do have to wonder if maybe I've read a different book from everyone else- but this book just really wasn't my cup of tea at all.

I liked the premise of the novel and in places it is well written- it's just for me the `good' bits are few and far between and don't compensate for the rest of the story. I do however think the author should be praised for tackling such a subject, and one which was clearly very personal to her.

I suppose my main problem with this book was that for me, the protagonists `voice' just didn't work; particularly as the plot jumps all over the place from present day to Grace as a child and then back again she recaps her memories so there's a *lot* for her to say. I found it very jarring and a bit disorientating if I'm honest, though I think even if the book had been a bit more linear it still would have made me feel this, as aspects of the prose used were clunky and disjointed. I felt the author was trying too hard to be poetic- she uses five words when one or two would have done instead. Sometimes Grace was also very loquacious, yet at other times lapsed into a more childish way of thinking, which didn't always make sense.

The book contains aspects of sexual and physical abuse from the medical professionals at the institution which was hard to read, as well as rather graphic descriptions of toilet habits, which the author certainly doesn't shy away from, so this book is certainly not for the faint hearted.
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Format: Paperback
I'm not saying it's altogether a bad book, and it is a brave subject, but my guess is it's the subject-matter and the touching 'back story' of the writer's giving a 'voice' to her dead sister that made the publishers back this novel. Henderson reads like a writer who could produce decent prose if she would only calm down and stop trying to impress, but as it is her coinages, 'poeticisms' and general attempts at linguistic inventiveness are deeply irritating - to the point where I started to speed-read the book so that I would not be assaulted by such things.

'Two hungry English girls, giggling in the gondola... loudly and lewdly' (pages 10-11 of the paperback edition): Do we need alliteration thrust in our faces? Why? Page 11: 'Mashed potato. Let's take her photato. What shall we do with the crumpled baby, early in the morning?' Now what? Finnegan's Wake? Did the novel start life as a verse epic? Or a children's book?

Page 38: 'It's the new space age, Grace. Space race...' Page 43: 'Bubble-headed boobies, plucked eggheads, silly billies, mates, noodles. Loony boys zooming.' Page 51: 'What had I done? Spat? Nattered? Shat?' Page 83: '..rough-scudding our heels on the warm paving stone': the need for 'rough'? Page 106:'straps.. which Dr Young buckled across my arms and over my chest, breathy-sharp': the meaning of 'breathy-sharp' in this context, or any? Page 133: 'the peasy-green easy chair'; 'as he... grabbed a stick and dab-thwackled on our crappy arses'. 'Dab-thwackled'?!!! There's a self-conscious horror like this on almost every other page. If there's an artistic reason for it, none is apparent. If it's part of Grace's 'voice', why is she so normally eloquent elsewhere?
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