Posted 20 hours ago

Without Warning and Only Sometimes: 'Extraordinary. Moving and heartwarming' The Sunday Times

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A window into an extraordinary childhood, told with blistering wit, pathos and joy, I could not have loved this more.

I don’t usually read memoirs or biographies so I wasn’t sure if I’d like this one, but it drew me in from the first page. A moving, heart-warming account of a girl who grows up in a house with no books except the Bible, gets in with a bad crowd and nearly goes under.Like a lot of memoirs, food and its links to memory feature throughout, except in this case much of it is to do with hunger and the absence of food. Vivid and compelling and so moving… Kit’s depiction of her parents’ dynamic is both painful and comforting to read’ Marian Keyes*Soon to be broadcast on BBC Radio 4*From the award-winning author of MY NAME IS LEON comes a childhood memoir set to become a classic: stinging, warm-hearted, and true. Her parents’ marriage was not close, and money and food were in such short supply that all their five children were frequently hungry.

Kit de Waal navigates the intricacies of growing up Irish, Caribbean and British in 1960s Birmingham in a family home that struggles to contain 4 siblings, a perpetually working mother, a withdrawn and imposing father, and their collective memories, hopes and failed aspirations.Her mother converts to Jehovah's Witnesses when they come knocking at her door promising a tired, poor mother a renewed paradise on earth.

The author was able to describe this phase in her life with such clarity and we somehow knew that she would conquer. I loved the mother in this book as she was very inventive when it came to earning a living and keeping her family together. Not fully accepted by either side of the family, by dint of being half, the children are aware of being treated differently to their cousins.For the O’Loughlin children, becoming a Jehovah’s Witness family involves interminable hours spent at weekly meetings, inconveniently timed to clash with Top of the Pops, at which Mandy and her siblings nearly die with boredom and fail to have their various forms of hunger sated. As a Brummie of a certain age, I am undoubtedly biased in my evaluation of this lovely memoir, redolent of a particular time and subculture (1970s Birmingham), but this book's only fault is that it finishes too soon. Her haphazard mother rarely cooked, forbade Christmas and birthdays, worked as a cleaner, nurse and childminder sometimes all at once and believed the world would end in 1975.

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