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Once in a House on Fire Paperback – 9 Apr 1999
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Given her start in life, it is all the more remarkable that Andrea Ashworth should have turned out to be an Oxford graduate with such a compelling memoir under her belt. Her father died when she was five, her mother was left, poor and isolated in 70s, depressed Manchester to bring up Andrea and her younger sister singlehandedly. Along comes a physically abusive stepfather who sets about dragging the young family into the pits of despair, petty crime and sordid poverty. But Ashworth writes an enchanting story that blends social history (the 70s are rendered with an acute eye for detail) with poetic intensity. She turns a child's uncomprehending gaze on the domestic horrors of working- class life when it is dominated by a vicious man and drunken, self-pitying mother. We know, as we listen with Andrea, that her mother has decided to leave her man when she puts Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" on the turntable. Unfortunately, we know, too, that she was kidding herself when said man comes home and twirls her round the front room to the sound of Motown disco. We know, because Ashworth makes us re-live her childhood by dint of her astonishing gift for storytelling. --Lilian Pizzichini
'This is a brilliant book. Brilliantly written, brilliantly thought, brilliantly remembered... Ashworth has written an extraordinary memoir; the only pity is that she had to live it to make it' SCOTSMAN --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I'm reading this for my A level, and it's a brilliant story but this doesn't follow the book very well. The pages are missing and many sentences gone. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
This has been a favourite book of mine for years and one that I have returned to. It is deeply moving and beautifully written. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Toni Jenkins
Brilliant. A really engaging, moving story. It's like you're right there with her, and you become so attached to every character. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Tasnim Kapasi
I read this book many years ago and loved it. I found it slightly reminiscent of my own upbringing which made me a little sad, but the author's experiences were much worse than... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Chrissie
A wonderful read and I can thoroughly recommend this book. I could not put it down and finished it in two days.Published 23 months ago by sophietrophy