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'If wishes were horses, beggars would ride' is an old saying, meaning that if all we needed to do for things to be better is to wish for them, then we would all be living the good life; and so the heroine of this novel, Lara, a care worker in her late thirties, mourning the death of her mother and suffering after a failed love affair, comes to the realization that wishing her life were different is of no use, and that for her life to change, she must do something to change it herself. Therefore, after attending creative writing classes, Lara decides to write her life story, in order to try to understand and to address issues from her past.

Moving backwards and forwards in time from the 1970s to the present day, the first part of this novel tells Lara's story as she sees it, and it is here that we read of how Lara grows up with her younger brother, Alfie, and her mother, Jane, in a small flat in Earl's Court, with her mostly absent father, a plastic surgeon, who spends a large part of his time working in Belfast, helping to reconstruct the faces of those who have been injured in the bombings. Even as a young child, Lara is aware that something is not quite right between her mother and father - although it is evident that they adore each other - but it is not until she is twelve years old that Lara learns the truth about her father's double life. Shocked and confused by her parents' situation, Lara turns away from her father, and becomes a troubled adolescent, and when her father is killed shortly after her discovery, she feels consumed with guilt. (No spoilers - we learn all of this early on in the novel and also from the information on the book's cover). However, Lara's feelings of guilt turn to a combination of anger and pity towards her grieving mother, when the family have to leave their home and move to a depressingly grubby and rundown flat on the North End Road; and it is here, Lara tells us, that she feels her childhood comes to an end; but this is not the end of Lara's story. Lara continues by telling the reader of how her troubled childhood has affected her adult life, and of how she attempts to address her feelings about her mother by writing the story of how she imagines her mother and father met and what happened to cause the difficult situation they found themselves in, and this appears as a separate section in the book as a 'novel within a novel'. Lara then tells us what she decides to do to enable her to move on - but is she really able to put everything behind her and make a new life for herself?

With a sense of melancholy running throughout the course of this story, ''All the Beggars Riding' is an involving and poignant portrayal of a woman trying to confront her past, and I found the first person narration effective in drawing me right into Lara's life story. The author's descriptions of certain areas of London, particularly Brompton Cemetery, where Lara and Alfie play as children, were very good, as was her depiction of Belfast, especially where she describes how, at the end of every road, even in the centre of the town, you can see the hills, purple with heather, almost as if they were close enough to reach out and touch. If I do have any reservations, I would say that I wasn't sure about the section in the novel where Lara writes of how she imagined her parents met and of how she thought the events unfolded afterwards, as I felt this could have been addressed in different way, which would have made this part of the story more convincing and cohesive; however, that said, I found 'All the Beggars Riding' a sensitive and absorbing story, which reminds us of how what happens to us in our formative years can significantly affect the way we approach life and how we relate to others, and of how if we wish to move on, we have to let go of the past and learn to put our trust in the future.
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Found this book bit of a dissapointment that in my opinion never really flowed or reached any great climax . Got the impression the author wasn`t quite sure how to execute the story. Reminded me a bit of stories you wrote in primary school.,put everything on paper you could think of and finished with the classic "and then I woke up !" .That said passed a pleasant couple of hours but is sadly instantly forgettable .
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on 6 March 2013
Lara, the protagonist of this book, decides to write her story and that of her parents. Her dad had a double life and through her words we learn what it means to be on the receiving hand of the lies and deception of one of your parents when you are a child and the consequences this still has on you as an adult, when you are trying to get on with your life and make sense of it all. The book is very well written and we can see how, by writing her story, Lara goes through a sort of cathartic journey.
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on 14 July 2014
This book was our book club monthly, and I did enjoy its content quite a lot, it took a while to get into when she started into fiction, but mostly it was a good read. I would look for the author again.
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on 3 March 2015
The only positive thing in Lara's life is the weekly writing class she goes to with the elderly man she she cares for. She doesn't hand in the assignments, but she usually completes them, even though the only thing she wants to write about is her parents' relationship. I thought the first part of the book was wonderfully subtle and moving. Lucy Caldwell writes beautifully and I really felt that I understood Lara's need to piece together fragments of memory.

Much of the second half of the book purports to be what Lara actually wrote. A few excerpts would have been fine, but more than seventy pages was just too long for a story that added little to the reader's knowledge or understanding. It picked up towards the end, but for me, it never quite recaptured the magic of the opening section.
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on 17 February 2014
The novel is set in two time layers. In our days, the protagonist of the novel Lara recalls the events of her childhood in the early 1970s. Lara is now trying to write a memoir about her family while attending creative writing courses.

Lara's mother Jane died of a heart disease, and Lara feels like an orphan. To write her family story Lara felt after watching documentary about Chernobyl. In this film, the book protagonist (and narratoe) first saw the effect of a death of a loved one on his survived family members.

Lara's and her brother Alfie’ father Robert died in a helicopter crash in 1985. And it was the father's death, and not the mother’s, that quite devastated little Lara.

Lara begins her memoirs since that year, 1985, when she and her mother and brother went on holiday to Spain, where they had had to wait for their father, a military surgeon, working in Northern Ireland, where at that time the attacks occurred frequently, and therefore the best doctors were invited to work there, where it was often necessary to save the lives of the victims of explosions and injuries from firearms.

This charming story about lies and human weakness begins surprisingly too slow. The author's voice - Lara – seeks too long to right approach to tell her story, and the impatient reader can shut the book, exhausted after the first 30 pages. And he will be wrong, if he does not continue reading.

Lara, of course, is disingenuous when she says that she is not a writer, that she does not know the craft, that her story is awkwardly built and it does not explain a lot. In fact, the narrator, and thus Lucy Caldwell herself, writes professionally, showing events of the novel from different angles and from different layers of time. Lara the child could not know everything, and accordingly, in the book, some questions remain unanswered, that makes it more intriguing. Through child's eyes we see only the visible part of the family story that a child could see and understand. Questions tormenting later Lara the woman torment us too. What Robert and Jane felt, enveloped himself in a web of deception in the first part, we can only guess. The second part opens the curtain from one side. Lara the daughter constructs the story from the point of view of her mother. Lara worked out something herself, her mother told her another part before her death, but the story of Jane turned shrill and believable.

Caldwell did not lay out all the cards on the table, leaving us without a chapter from the POV of Lara's father. In the third part Lara and her brother, children of the deceased surgeon, only build their guesses about who actually their father was, what he felt. So we can either blame Robert or support him. Those chapters that are written from the present at first seem superfluous, but closer to the end we will realize their value. These chapters in detail paint how the children of a man who led a double life turned out.

All the Beggars Riding is also a story about the hard work of a writer. Story is story, it can be exciting, and it can not be, it can be for the mind, and it can be for the heart, but a story still needs to be transferred to paper. And just seeing the writing, you can appreciate the story. The narrator Lara overcame herrself to understand that the writer's voice can be found not at once, but gradually.

Caldwell writes with heart and wit, her book is an undoubted success.
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on 6 February 2015
A beautifully written novel about love, family and families, hurts, twists and the possibility of healing. I was initially drawn to the book because the writer is, like me, from Northern Ireland, and there is a familiar strand running through the story in terms of place and speech. But that's really an incidental element in the context. The narrative itself is beautifully told and the only slightly jarring note is the regular assertion that the main character, who is writing this as a memoir, is not really a writer, just some amateur. But overall it's vivid and touching.
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on 23 September 2014
The narrator Lara is writing the intriguing story of her childhood, the strange life of her parents, but tells the reader she cannot accurately remember the events and reactions. We know that – all recall is fiction. Then Lara tells the reader the same again. And again. This, more successfully than an IRA bomb between the covers, demolishes both engagement with her tale and interest in it. Lara is taking a succession of creative writing courses, so be creative. Get on with exploring or explaining the behaviour and motivation of the characters instead of offering scenarios in shards.
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on 14 September 2014
A quiet, graceful and stunning book. Lara's analysis of her parents' relationship, long after her father has died, and just after her mother's death. I loved this story so much, and identified hugely with the need to know and understand, and the need to respect the privacy of other people's emotions. Exquisite domestic detail, almost overwhelming in its intensity. The tricks memory plays, and the pain of understanding. This book will change your life.
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on 7 June 2013
I chose 'All The Beggars Riding' as my holiday read and was not disappointed. It is an interesting story well written and with an original 'skew' on topics that are not particularly unusual in themselves. It is so beautifully written that I thoroughly enjoyed my reading and found it to be just the right vehicle for whiling away time on the beach or next to the pool - complex enough to pique my interest but light enough to be enjoyable.
I am glad I have discovered Lucy Caldwell and will be seeking out her other books to read.
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