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Once in a house on fire

Once in a house on fire

Author(s): Andrea Ashworth

Location(s): Manchester, Vancouver

Genre(s): Autobiography/Memoirs

Era(s): Late 1970s, 1980s



Given her start in life, it is all the more remarkable that Andrea Ashworth should have turned out to be an Oxford graduate with such a compelling memoir under her belt. Her father died when she was five, her mother was left, poor and isolated in 70s, depressed Manchester to bring up Andrea and her younger sister singlehandedly. Along comes a physically abusive stepfather who sets about dragging the young family into the pits of despair, petty crime and sordid poverty. But Ashworth writes an enchanting story that blends social history (the 70s are rendered with an acute eye for detail) with poetic intensity. She turns a child’s uncomprehending gaze on the domestic horrors of working- class life when it is dominated by a vicious man and drunken, self-pitying mother. We know, as we listen with Andrea, that her mother has decided to leave her man when she puts Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” on the turntable. Unfortunately, we know, too, that she was kidding herself when said man comes home and twirls her round the front room to the sound of Motown disco. We know, because Ashworth makes us re-live her childhood by dint of her astonishing gift for storytelling. –Lilian Pizzichini

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Lead Review

A tremednous account of childhood, Domestic Abuse, vivid accounts of 1980s England and how to survive such an ordeal.

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