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This exceptional debut novel about family, love, and the innocence and terror of childhood has caused an absolute sensation, garnering no less than eleven leading publishers around the world. Set in a Maltese immigrant community in Cardiff, Wales, and peopled with sharp-edged, luminously drawn characters, The Hiding Place is the story of Frankie Gauci, his wife Mary, and their six daughters and about Frankie's betrayal, gambling away his family's livelihood and eventually the family itself. Written in magical language buoyed by grace, it is a mesmerizing exploration of how family, like fire, can shift suddenly from something that provides light and warmth to a dangerous conflagration, sparing no one in its path. The Gaucis' story is seen through the eyes of Dolores, the youngest daughter and, in her father's estimation, the embodiment of bad luck, condemned to bear the mark of a family that is rapidly singeing at the edges. With a lyricism that belies the horrors she so often recounts ("children burnt and children bartered: someone must be to blame"), Dolores presents an unsparing portrayal of the fear and hopelessness of childhood amid grim poverty and neglect, of children growing up without safety nets and on sunken foundations. The Hiding Place conjures the coarse sensuality of life among the docks, the smoky cafes and bars, the crumbling homes and gambling rooms of Tiger Bay. Sustained by a tightrope tension and combining the stark, youthful wisdom and the uncanny, perfect pitch of Susan Minot's Monkeys with the redemptive liveliness of the downtrodden in Angela's Ashes, The Hiding Place is a breathtaking, radiant debut.
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From Publishers Weekly:
TREZZA AZZOPARDI is the critically acclaimed author of The Hiding Place, which won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and longlisted for the Orange Prize and the Guardian First Book Award, and Remember Me, which was shortlisted for the Welsh Book of the Year. Born in Cardiff, Wales, she is a graduate of the Creative Writing School at the University of East Anglia. She lives in Norfolk, England.
Frank McCourt and Mary Karr may have written definitive accounts of grim childhoods, but British first novelist Azzopardi can stand on her own as a writer of remarkable sensibility and literary prowess. A seedy dockside community in 1960s Wales is the apt setting for this memoir-like narrative. Physical and emotional abuse haunts every detail in Azzopardi's account of a poor Maltese immigrant family's misery. Dolores, the youngest of the six Gauci daughters, narrates the story of her father Frankie's arrival in Tiger Bay, Wales, his marriage to young waitress Mary Jessop, the birth of their children and the family's eventual disintegration as a result of Frankie's gambling and jealousy. In Part One, Dolores's five-year-old narration is emotionless as she relates the awful events that shape their lives. Hers is the perfect voice to unearth the family's confusing and shady secrets; because the child doesn't quite understand the emotional impact of situations, she questions and observes with detachment. On the day Dolores is born, Frankie gambles away their house and caf . When she is just a month old, Dolores loses her left hand in a fire. Frankie's jealousy and gambling debts lead him to sell one of his daughters, Marina, to gangster Joe Medora, the man he believes is her father. Azzopardi chills the blood with gruesome details as Frankie skins Dolores's pet rabbit for older sister Celesta's wedding dinner. Eventually, Frankie abandons the family to join Medora, and Mary, losing her grip on reality, also loses the remaining children to public care. Dolores's stoic perspective continues into adulthood, as, in Part Two, the sisters return to Tiger Bay for Mary's funeral. Although the narrative line can confuse as the story shifts from present to past, readers will be riveted by this brilliant psychological prose poem of a family united only in helplessness and despair, in a poverty-stricken corner of the world rarely evoked in fiction. (Jan.)
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