By Jenny Uglow
One of the most brilliant writers of her day, George Eliot (1819-1880) was also one of the most talked about. Intellectual and independent, she had the strength to defy polite society with her highly unorthodox private life, so why did she deny her fictional characters the same opportunities?
The Girl From Hockley
By Kathleen Dayus
The Girl from Hockley is a new, revised edition bringing together in one new volume this remarkable story. Born into the industrial slums of Birmingham in 1903, Kathleen Dayus became a legend in her own time. She vividly recalls her Edwardian childhood and her life as a young munitions worker during the war, marriage and life below the poverty line in the 1920s. Early widowhood and the Depression forced her to relinquish her children to Dr Barnado's homes until, eight long years later, she could afford a home for them again. Her autobiography is a testament to the indomitable spirit, humour and verve that characterised her life. Her extraordinary memory for the sights, sounds and smells of her youth, her marvellous sense of the comic and above all her spirited refusal to do anything but live life to the full, deservedly made her one of the most compelling storytellers of our time.
The Glass Castle
By Jeannette Walls
Now a major motion picture starring Brie Larson, Naomi Watts and Woody Harrelson.This is a startling memoir of a successful journalist's journey from the deserted and dusty mining towns of the American Southwest, to an antique filled apartment on Park Avenue. Jeanette Walls narrates her nomadic and adventurous childhood with her dreaming, 'brilliant' but alcoholic parents. At the age of seventeen she escapes on a Greyhound bus to New York with her older sister; her younger siblings follow later. After pursuing the education and civilisation her parents sought to escape, Jeanette eventually succeeds in her quest for the 'mundane, middle class existence' she had always craved. In her apartment, overlooked by 'a portrait of someone else's ancestor' she recounts poignant remembered images of star watching with her father, juxtaposed with recollections of irregular meals, accidents and police-car chases and reveals her complex feelings of shame, guilt, pity and pride toward her parents.