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At once troubling, funny and joyous, this is an intimate, lyrical and deeply moving novel of an ordinary family crumbling under the weight of past mistakes. Isabel Ashdown's captivating debut vividly brings to life the gentility of a 1950s childhood, the free-spirited hedonism of the Sixties, and the urban domesticity of 1980s Portsmouth. Thirteen-year-old Jake's world is unravelling as his father and older brother leave home, and his mother plunges into alcoholic freefall. Despite his turbulent home life, Jake is an irrepressible teenager and his troubled mother is not the only thing on his mind: there's the hi-fi he's saving up for, his growing passion for Greek mythology (and his pretty classics teacher), and the anticipation of brief visits to see his dad. When his parents reconcile, life finally seems to be looking up. Their first family holiday, announced over scampi and chips in the Royal Oak, promises to be the icing on the cake - until long-unspoken family secrets begin to surface.

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Product details

  • Paperback | 344 pages
  • 128 x 196 x 30mm | 340.19g
  • Myriad Editions
  • Brighton, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0954930975
  • 9780954930974
  • 308,334

Review quote

'Tender and subtle, it explores difficult issues in deceptively easy prose... Across the decades, Ashdown tiptoes carefully through explosive family secrets. This is a wonderful debut - intelligent, understated and sensitive.' - OBSERVER 'An intelligent, beautifully observed coming-of-age story, packed with vivid characters and inch-perfect dialogue. Isabel Ashdown's storytelling skills are formidable; her human insights highly perceptive.' MAIL ON SUNDAY 'Isabel Ashdown's first novel is a disturbing, thought-provoking tale of family dysfunction, spanning the second half of the 20th century, that guarantees laughter at the uncomfortable familiarity of it all.' - JULIET NICOLSON, EVENING STANDARD 'I love it. It's a book that's very fast and really rewarding for the reader. There's a wrenching end to the first chapter that switches the mood and absolutely hooked me for the rest of the book.' - DAVID VANN, author of LEGEND OF A SUICIDE 'An immaculately written novel with plenty of dark family secrets and gentle wit within. Recommended for book groups.' BOOKS QUARTERLY 'A brilliant debut.' SAINSBURYS MAGAZINE 'It's an incredibly convincing boy's voice; an incredibly convincing woman's voice. It's very subtle, and subtlety is the key to this. The tragedy is happening behind the words and behind what people are saying, and you could be forgiven for wanting to read it again to catch all the nuances. It reminded me of Iain Banks. If you enjoyed The Crow Road, you'll get lots out of this book.' JOEL MORRIS ON THE SIMON MAYO SHOW, RADIO 5 LIVE 'This stirring coming-of-age novel evokes the strictures of the '50s and the tacky flamboyance of the '80s brilliantly. Narrated through 13-year-old Jake's eyes, it's a heartbreaking redemptive tale of family secrets that will take you on an emotional rollercoaster. Arm yourselves with a box of Kleenex as you'll be weeping into your pillow by the end.' - GLAMOUR 'Carefully observed, unexpected and mesmerisingly beautiful.' - EASY LIVING 'In Jake, Ashdown has created a beautifully realised character, totally believable as a 20th-century boy but imbued with qualities which should resonate with any reader and will surely stand the test of time...The prose is succinct and smooth, the dialogue crisp and convincing. An intriguing, atmospheric read with a healthy dollop of realism.' THE ARGUS 'Skillfully written and difficult to put down...this novel is a page-turningly good read.' DRINK AND DRUGS NEW 'A beautifully poignant, multi-layered family story. There is glorious detail in the writing which renders it truly memorable. [And] I was very impressed by the masterful handling of the chronology and the weaving of the two different points of view in the story as it rushes towards its climax.' - BOOKERSATZ 'The beauty of Ashdown's writing is that readers are able to connect to the real characters presented and understand that life isn't always all that easy...her character representations, no matter what sex or age, are flawless, and her descriptions of small hometowns and country and beachside holidays create superb images to match the story...It's hard to know who to recommend this to without encouraging everyone to go out and buy it. Ashdown is a definite one to watch for in British literature.' THE BOOKBAG

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About Isabel Ashdown

Isabel Ashdown lives in West Sussex with her carpenter husband and two children. She worked in product marketing for 15 years, frequently travelling throughout Europe and the United States. Despite not having written since school, in 2004 she gave up her senior management role to test her long-held ambition to become a writer, enrolling on a BA in Creative Writing at Chichester University. In 2007 she graduated with a first class honours degree in Creative Writing, and received the Hugo Donnelly Prize for Outstanding Academic Achievement. She went on to win the 2008 Mail on Sunday Novel Competition with an extract from Glasshopper.

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