Common People

Common People : The History of An English Family

3.89 (176 ratings by Goodreads)
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Shortlisted for the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize

'Part detective story, part Dickensian saga, part labour history. A thrilling and unnerving read' Observer

'Mesmeric and deeply moving' Daily Telegraph

'Remarkable, haunting, full of wisdom' The Times

Family history is a massive phenomenon of our times but what are we after when we go in search of our ancestors? Beginning with her grandparents, Alison Light moves between the present and the past, in an extraordinary series of journeys over two centuries, across Britain and beyond.

Epic in scope and deep in feeling, Common People is a family history but also a new kind of public history, following the lives of the migrants who travelled the country looking for work. Original and eloquent, it is a timely rethinking of who the English were - but ultimately it reflects on history itself, and on our constant need to know who went before us and what we owe them.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 352 pages
  • 129 x 198 x 21mm | 282g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • integrated black & white illustrations
  • 0141039868
  • 9780141039862
  • 202,276

Review quote

In illuminating her own, Light serves up the most powerful family history I have ever read. -- Penelope Lively * New York Times * Light writes beautifully. With such colour and with perception and lyricism she clads the past....Common People is part memoir, part thrilling social history of the England of the Industrial Revolution, but above all a work of quiet poetry and insight into human behaviour. It is full of wisdom. -- Melanie Reid * The Times Book of the Week * This book is a substantial achievement: its combination of scholarship and intelligence is, you may well think, the best monument you could have to all those she has rescued from time's oblivion. * Financial Times * Evocatively written...a thrilling and unnerving read * The Observer * Exquisite...Barely a page goes by without something fascinating on it, betraying Light's skill in winkling out the most relevant or moving aspects of her antecedents' lives, which echo through the generations. * the Independent on Sunday * [A] short and beautifully written meditation on family and mobility. * the Independent * Intellectually sound and relevant...a refreshingly modern way of thinking about our past. * New Statesman * Light [is skilled] in probing dark corners of her ancestry and exposing their historical meaning...packed with humanity. * Sunday Times * Beautifully written and exhaustively researched, Alison Light makes her family speak for England. * Jerry White, author of London in the Eighteenth Century * A remarkable achievement...should become a classic. * Margaret Drabble *
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Rating details

176 ratings
3.89 out of 5 stars
5 26% (45)
4 45% (79)
3 24% (43)
2 4% (7)
1 1% (2)
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