When Andrea Ashworth's childhood memoir was published in 1998 it left critics stunned; it became an international bestseller and continues to move readers around the world. Set in grim 1970s Manchester, Once in a House on Fire tells the true story of three sisters and their mother, a close-knit and loving family forced to battle with poverty, ...
When Andrea Ashworth's childhood memoir was published in 1998 it left critics stunned; it became an international bestseller and continues to move readers around the world. Set in grim 1970s Manchester, Once in a House on Fire tells the true story of three sisters and their mother, a close-knit and loving family forced to battle with poverty, abuse and the effects of depression. What makes Ashworth's memoir truly astounding is that her tale of hardship is so beautifully written, so compellingly told, so funny and endearing. Ultimately this is one of the most life-affirming stories around; a bright and sympathetic book that should be read by everyone.
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Publishers Weekly, 1998-04-13 At 28, Ashworth writes eloquently and passionately about her British (and, for a time, Canadian) childhood with her widowed mother and sisters, who are brutalized by the mother's two husbands. The author triumphs over the abuse, poverty and racial slurs directed at her and her middle sister, Laurie, because of their part-Maltese background, by writing poetry, keeping a journal and reading authors from Shakespeare to Judy Blume and D.H. Lawrence. Despite the violent battles in small, often borrowed rooms, Ashworth holds onto her spirits and excels academically in literature, science and art. As her story ends, she heads off to Oxford. This coming-of-age memoir stands out for its integrity, lack of self-pity, colorful Manchester dialect and realistic dialogue. Perhaps most impressive, however, is the sisters' love for "our mother," who is so fearful of being alone that she returns again and again to abusive men. Ashworth's story rings true, though it's a bit difficult to believe that anyone's memory could call up, word for word, the scores of mundane conversations that this family exchanged in its daily life over a dozen years. With degrees from Oxford and Yale, Ashworth holds a fellowship at Jesus College, Oxford, and is working on a first novel. 25,000 first printing; major ad/promo. (May)
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