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3.9 out of 5 stars
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3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 5 July 2000
A year on from first reading this novel, I'm amazed at how I still find myself unsettled by its impact. Linda Grant's heroine is the ultimate exile. Her odyssey twists the cliches of modern American fiction: She makes the journey out West -- but never gets to California. As a British born, Jewish Communist she views the American dream through the wrong side of a mirror. Having read a great deal of African American fiction I found Grant's portrayal of the relationship with the callow Black intellectual boyfriend fascinating. This novel isn't afraid to tackle the cruelty that lurks in human beings, even when supposedly dedicated to a great cause. And it's not afraid to be bleak about people who realise they may have dedicated their life to a pointless cause. The more "great" American literature you've read, the more I think you'll be surprised at how fresh and original this novel is. by the way.. that cover photo of the glamour girl by the 50s convertible is either totally ironic or very misleading. But I can't recommend this highly enough.
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on 2 May 1999
Linda Grant's ambitious and panoramic novel could perhaps be described as a paradox: the 'great American novel' written by an English journalist, about a third of which takes place in Liverpool. But this is to be perhaps too flippant about a book which I found convincing and compulsive. It provoked for me favourable comparisons with another work tackling similar themes of exile, political commitment and sacrifice - Philip Roth's American Pastoral. Grant of course is lacking the years of experience of Roth, and my only criticism would be that some of the plotting is a little loose and one or two of the recurring metaphors a little leaden, but these are minor complaints in a novel so sympathetically relayed. Grant also, of course, manages something which Roth could never be accredited with: a coherent and sympathetic feminine perspective.
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on 13 August 2003
I feel strange to write this about the Cast Iron Shore having just finished When I Lived in Modern Times. Yet the pleasure I received from that triggered off recollections of the other.
I do think a comparison with Philip Roth is valid. There is a similar sense of an exploration of the political and historical, through the development of a personal narrative which acts as a trigger for personal development.
I cant recommend this, (which first intrigued me because the heroine's father, like my own, was a furrier) and When I Lived in Modern Times, highly enough.
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on 24 March 1999
It tells the story of the awakening to real life of a protected, spoilt, half-Jewish Liverpool girl, starting in the late 1930s and working through to the present time. Her experiences (social, sexual and racial) in Liverpool during the war, and subsequently in the rag trade - and later the Communist Party - in the USA, give her a unique perspective on life's depths and superficialities. Linda Grant has written a sensitive, streetwise and magnetically readable piece of literature.
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on 17 September 2014
I didn't enjoy this as much as her more recent work, but it is a good yarn and covers and huge historical stage. Grant's attention to detail and her ability to include historic events around the rather self indulgent main character is gripping if you like this sort of thing. She is best on developing story lines and explaining how people work, or don't work. I got a bit lost in the middle when she was wandering round the Mid West and annoyed with one of her partners who seemed to psychologically abuse her....somewhow her 'conversion to communism' doesn't sound very convincing.

However a good read, though rather long. Glad I have done it but she gets better as a writer as she writes more...
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on 16 July 1999
Just when you thought it was over Linda Grant breathes life into the feminist novel. But Cast Iron Shore is much more than that, it is a truly great novel. You now a book is great when it leaves you thinking about it months later. Sybil is a tough unsympathic heroine but one that you won't forget in a hurry.
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on 10 April 2009
I chose this book for our book club which meets in South Liverpool firstly because of the title The Cast Iron Shore and the second because Linda Grant was a Liverpool author.
This book was so disappointing. The bit on Sybils early life as the daughter of a Jewish furrier with a shop in Bold street and a German mother was about the most interesting thing we found in this book.
Her escapades in America and her Communist Party associations were tedious and boring.
When she came back to Liverpool after the death of her mother we just didn't see the point of describing her time in the Aldephi Hotel and as she said herself there was no interest for her seeing the rest of Liverpool.
The time when she described her walk from the city centre to Queens Drive - we just wondered did she know Liverpool at all - that was an awfully long way to walk and as an only child of well to do parents would she have been allowed to wander about the city as she did as a teenager.
The Cast Iron Shore - two brief mentions - not what it was or why it was important to Liverpool.
We felt that we could have written our own book - The cast Iron Shore with some of the things we would have liked to see included.
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on 9 September 2010
The Cast Iron Shore is a great book, but there again I love anything by Linda Grant and can't wait for her new book next year.
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on 2 June 2007
There is nothing guaranteed to make you question your sanity more than a mediocre novel whose dustjacket is strewn with gushing superlatives, but this is one of those experiences. What is the point of this book? Written in a very pedestrian style, and from a boringly retrospective, 'memoirist' position, it lacks any sort of narrative pace or force. The preface was promising but it soon descended into the most unmemorable kind of cliche, as though the author had written an academic thesis on the subject then decided to trouser a bit of cash by fleshing fact out with a few shallow fictive characters (none of whom come convincingly alive). There must be better novels about the American communist experience than this.
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