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3.6 out of 5 stars
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3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 23 May 2015
If this book was available on Kindle it would have suited me me better. I have eyesight problems and 340 pages of small print is challenging. But it was a book group choice, with a time deadline, so I set myself a daily target and persevered.

I felt some affinity with the background. I lived in Ireland for a time; not long ago I discovered my mother's large and colourful Yorkshire family; my own family is a medical one; and I live near where the author's parents came from. So the book might have worked for me.

I'm not sure it did, but I can see why it was successful: a family history; lots of medical bits; some religion; the War; and Irishness. But you're spared the platitudinous "Cloggie (northern English) meets Paddy" theme: both the author's parents came from prosperous business families. I took the point that whilst today being of Irish origin is rather chic, but that was not always so, and I noted the author's point that "by definition being Irish meant that the O'Sheas must be poor". You also get some telling points on a mixed marriage between a Roman Catholic and a Protestant agnostic and accompanying prejudices, though these do not seem to have harmed the marriage.

But the problem with this book is that it is too wordy. It's not without a bit of humour, but the author lacks the light touch of McCarthy's Bar. I was not surprised to find that the author was Professor of Writing at Goldsmiths College. A veritable wordsmith. Indeed, the book is so lengthy, so full of prose that I was surprised that it was not at least on the long list for the Booker Prize. Perhaps it was.
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on 17 October 2003
The scene opens up in the chaos of World War II, Blake Morrison didnt know that his mother was keeping secrets from him...When she died, he discovered numerous letters written between his mother and father. Frankly, they were not at all what he had expected! Blake discovers that his parents relationship was difficult and that his mother changed a lot during that time. His mother changed her name firstly and then her religion! The whole story revolves around Blake and how he went onto discover the truth about his mother and father...and some other characters...It is a page turner, the reader wants to read on and on, never stopping, it is a classic book, but sometimes gets boring. Overall, it deserves a round of applause!
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on 12 February 2003
I was absorbed by this book. It is a love story on two levels; the first being the tale of the author's parents, and the second (and most touching) being the love between a mother and son. Mr Morrison is very honest in this book, it must have been painful for him to write and I found it a poignant read. I have ordered his book "And when did you last see your father" and am looking forward to reading it soon.
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on 6 November 2009
this book is brilliant and as my mother came from the same area and was born around the same time I could identify so easily with the character, it gave an insight as to people lived at the time and how differnt life could become. Lovely to read some history and names I could identify with. Definately worth reading!!
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on 25 June 2015
Not interested in a man who asks us to sympathise with both his and his father's philandering. He also doesn't build greatly upon his mother's letters, making this one of the weaker memoirs I've read. Moving swiftly on.
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on 10 February 2008
My wife bought me this book on the basis that Tony Parsons is quoted on the front cover "The must read book of the year" I have always enjoyed Tony Parsons books so it was a logical purchase.

I have to say I really struggled with the first 100 pages and it took two or three attempts to get into the book - separated by months.

I did eventually get into the book and whilst I didn't find it a great read - I am interested enough to buy the book about his father if that is recommendation enough.

It is worth the effort to get into it.
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on 21 January 2015
An interesting read but a little heavy going. Not as good as 'When did you last see your Father', which I was unable to put down
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on 16 April 2011
If you are like me and are as endlessly curious as I am about the lives of ordinary people in ordinary towns and cities, then I am sure that you will enjoy this book.

Blake Morrison has written about his mother who, it turns out, he hardly knew at all because she never talked about her early years in Ireland. Morrison's mother led an interesting life, being born and brought up in rural Ireland, then training as a doctor and working endless hours in English hospitals during the war. Letters between her and Morrison's father detail this period of their lives, bringing to life the ups and downs of the war years in a way that I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to read.

For me, the book worked on a number of levels - first, as previously mentioned, in the portrayal of the ordinary lives of a bygone era, secondly, as an entertaining read and thirdly, as an outstanding tribute by Morrison to his mother. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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on 22 April 2011
I thought this was an engaging book - you can feel the frustration of a man whose mother kept so many secrets, and his delight at finding the correspondence between his parents during the war. It really made me think how much our future generations will lose out by not having those packets of letters to read - texts and emails just aren't the same!
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on 19 September 2010
I suggest you read 'When did you last see your father?' before this one as it put this book about the author's mother in context. I love Blake Morrison's writing and his books are a delight to read for his writing style alone - poetic and personal.
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