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Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
20
4.4 out of 5 stars


on 3 November 2017
Alicia's story made it worth the read. Just. Generations too confused and arbitrary. Doesn't fit the decades as I remember them. And she changes the views of the different generations at will to suit her plot. Contrived.
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on 19 November 2015
Enjoyed this book
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on 31 July 2017
Funny and poignant. A good quick read.
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on 31 December 2006
A friend gave me The Family Tree for Christmas. I started it on Boxing Day and couldn't put it down - I had to restrain myself from galloping through it in one go. I haven't enjoyed a read so much, and been carried along by stories so well, for a long time.

The three threads of grandmother Alicia in the 1950s, mother Doreen in the 1980s and narrator Rebecca in the present, are masterfully interwoven. Cadwalladr produces a feel for time and place through tiny details: Cecil's coconut hair oil, Alicia's Ingrid Bergman hair, shopping for party clothes with Doreen, Suzanne's growing feminism, and the modern lunches and dinner parties. Often a single economical line conveys the whole feeling of a time, be it the 50s, the 80s or now.

It's tempting to race through it to find out what's going to happen next with each set of characters, so a small warning: don't plan on doing anything else once you start reading it.
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on 17 January 2012
Loved this. Best read of 2011. Obviously, I've come to it rather late ... and was fully expecting Ms Cadwalladr to have written another fab book by now. Is there one in the pipeline??

It evokes the late Seventies and early Eighties in a way which will resonate with anyone who was alive in those years: child, adult or crone. It provoked a walk down memory lane for me which was bittersweet (as these things always are). But that wasn't the half of it. Intertwined with this, almost, popular history is a genuine mystery which, again, evokes girl children, women and crones. This takes the whole book to unravel and it doesn't feel a jot too long. A third thread is the dictionary angle, which is beautifully set up and which, in places is genuinely useful. Oh - I didn't much care for the footnotes, but that's just me. It still gets 5*s.

I cannot remember when I last gave vent to a sigh of such satisfaction on finishing a book.
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VINE VOICEon 14 July 2006
Three generations of women make their way through the obstacles that life throws at you - yet another family saga, I thought. But no, this book is so much more. The family saga is done brilliantly well; the reader moves effortlessly between generations and decades as if reminiscing - without any of that lurching time-shift that you so often get with books of this kind. I loved the pseudo thesis style too, with frequent dictionary definitions used to break the text up into numbered sections, and witty descriptions of 1970's tv programmes as footnotes in the style of a cultural studies thesis.

But the best thing about it is the story itself, as it is slowly revealed in increasing complexity like peeling layers off an onion. Rebecca struggles to make sense of the relationships between herself, her sister and her mother, between her mother, her aunt and her grandmother, and of her own marriage, her mother's and her aunt's. Why does her mother hate her grandmother? What is the cause of the rivalry between her mother and her aunt? Why doesn't her husband want to have children? And, most of all, why did her mother kill herself?

Carole Cadwalladr takes us through emotionally charged explorations of family relationships, of love and trust, of nature vs nurture - all the while giving us a painfully accurate look at the lifestyle and aspirations of the middle classes in the late 1970s. She challenges you and gives you something to think about on almost every page.
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VINE VOICEon 14 April 2005
This is a great book, both funny and sad, about three generations of women told through the eyes of 30something Rebecca, who struggles to get to grips with her family history and cope with an unsatisfactory marriage. The heart of the book is the wonderful recreation of the 1970s, particularly some po-faced feminist deconstructions of popular 70s TV shows like Charlie's Angels and Dallas (though not Starsky and Hutch, unfortunately. That would have made interesting reading). What stops me giving it five stars is that I found the last 50 pages or so a bit rushed, as if the author was hurrying to wrap it all up. Despite this, highly recommended.
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on 9 December 2008
I'd had this book for a while and not got round to reading it. Once I started, however, I just couldn't put it down. It's brilliantly written, the characters are exceptionally well observed and it really made me laugh out loud. It doesn't shy away from gritty issues but they're portrayed sympathetically and you empathise with the characters at every turn.

I could really identify with some of the situations described - I just about remember the parties held for Charles and Diana's wedding, and the Nationwide programme, for example. The family dynamics also rang true for me, thankfully to a slightly less dramatic extent than in this book. In short this is exactly the kind of book I'd love to have written myself if I had either the talent or the patience!

My only disappointment was when I looked on amazon for more titles by the author and realised that this is her only novel to date. Please write another, I'll keep my fingers crossed.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 31 July 2010
I liked the look of a review I read for this book soon after it came out but didn't get around to buying it until recently. Once I started it I was hooked. It starts with the dictionary meaning for "beginning" and each subsection has it's own heading all of which are relevant, unlike some books which you feel quotations etc. have been shoe horned in to keep up the theme.

On the one hand it is about a young girl born in the 1970's trying to make sense of a typical but unhappy family of the time. It is lovely for the senseless phrases and cliches that were part of my 1970's upbringing to be read in anothers family context along with the emerging brands that were of the time.
Alongside this is the same girl as an adult dealing with a marriage she is not sure she fits into and the legacy of her family's past with the concurrent theme of whether nature or nurture wins.... thoroughly thought provoking without hammering home the scientific parts.

I can't do this book justice in this review, you need to read it! It really does have you laughing, wincing and crying throughout, definitely not chick lit.
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on 15 February 2006
Highly recommended. I cried really hard (full box of tissues) for the last hour of this book and there are big belly laughs all the way through (the first is within about 30 seconds reading time from the start of the book). I think a testament to how good this book is the fact that when I finished it I really didn’t know how I felt about. I had to spend a few days mulling about and thinking it over and considering it before I formed my opinion. Cadwalladr is very subtle in her writing and doesn’t pummel you over the head with her points so I people reading it will take dramatically different things away from it depending upon their interpretation.
None of the characters are entirely sympathetic but they are so human and so well depicted as personalities that you care deeply about them with all their faults. The weaving in of genetics and cultural studies is witty and accessible and the depiction of the 70s is a real gem.
A great book, I would suggest buying a big box of tissues, commandeering the sofa and clearing the weekend for this one, definitely 5 stars.
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