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The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant

The Clothes on Their Backs (2008)

by Linda Grant

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5842925,222 (3.43)142



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Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
It started out strongly but about halfway through it started to meander a bit and loose focus. I wasn't really sure what story she wanted to tell and, although the characters were interesting, I wasn't very connected with their story. I thought the clothes theme was a bit forced, esp in the last few pages. It was well-written but not the most interesting read.
  amyem58 | Oct 29, 2018 |
I liked this very much - the daughter of Hungarian refugees in 1970s London who have been silent about their past seeks out her estranged uncle who is a wealthy criminal. It's full of the little details of life, has one disruptive BIG EVENT and is the perfect way to spend a rainy fall weekend. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
Fantastic story. This book follows a woman's life from her youth when she used clothes to define an identity she couldn't otherwise develop through her efforts to locate the past that was hidden from her by her parents. A great introspective work on what people find acceptable, why they might reject their relatives, and who they turn out to be themselves in the end.
The writing is lovely, spare yet with a style that touches on the emotions and turmoil of this woman at different life stages. And she does find herself in the end through some very interesting moves that force her parents to confront what they hid for so long. ( )
1 vote Laine-Cunningham | Feb 22, 2015 |
The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant

Vivien, our protagonist, is a young sheltered woman who has lived her youth in the care of her meek & cloistered parents who are Hungarian refugees of their war torn homeland. To her knowledge there are just the three of them.
Eventually she realizes that she has an uncle. Her father's estranged brother who also came to the new country to make his fortune. And make it he did until he was found out by the housing authorities and arrested for his slumlord activities. By the time that Vivien, unknowingly to her parents, makes his acquaintance he has spent many years in prison. She is fascinated by the fact that here is a relative of hers and she wants to get to know him but they each keep secret from the other that they know who the other is. He wants to write his memoirs and needs a typist. She goes to work for him typing up the notes that he speaks into a tape recorder.
Her parents of course flip out when they find out and so it goes.
I know from the title & from reading other reviews that our Vivien invents & reinvents herself through the clothes & outfits that she puts together & wears. But this ploy didn't work for me. I have read Grant before & loved what I read. This time I just liked it. I liked the premise of the story but thought that it took an awfully long time to be told, longer than my interest actually held. ( )
3 vote rainpebble | Aug 27, 2013 |
A very unusual book. It is about Jewish immigrants. Two brothers: one called Ervin is timid in his new home, London. He almost forgets to live. And second brother Sandor who is brash is treated as a small-time slum lord. He is greeted by media frenzy as a criminal. Both brothers are estranged. Ervin tries to make life away from shadow of his brother Sandor.

However, Ervin's daughter finds Sandor to seek out her family history. Book is about an immigrant's life and explains Jewish Hungarian life well.

( )
  poonamsharma | Apr 6, 2013 |
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But this is the soul
Prepared for you, these garments that glow
In the dark and burn as fierce as coal.

George Szirtes, from 'Dressing'
To George Szirtes and Clarissa Upchurch
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This morning, for the first time in many years, I passed the shop on Seymour Street.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Vivien Kovacs, sensitive and bookish, grows up sealed off from the world by her timid Hungarian refugee parents. She loves herself in books and reinvents herself according to her favorite characters, but it is through clothes that she ultimately finds herself. Against her father's wishes, she forges a relationship with her estranged uncle, a notorious criminal, who, in his old age, wants to share his life story. As he reveals the truth about her family's past Vivien, having endured unbearable loss, learns how to be comfortable in her own skin and how to be alive in the world. Grant has created an enchanting portrait of a woman and a powerful story of family, love, and the hold the past has on the present.
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A powerful story of family, love, and the hold the past has on the present. A woman, having endured unbearable loss, finds solace in the family secrets her estranged uncle reveals.

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