The Clothes on Their Backs

by Linda Grant | Women's Fiction |
ISBN: 9781844085415 Global Overview for this book
Registered by franaloe of Utrecht, Utrecht Netherlands on 10/21/2008
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15 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by franaloe from Utrecht, Utrecht Netherlands on Tuesday, October 21, 2008
This is the Man Booker Prize shortlisted book that I'm hosting for the MBP-shortlist-spiral. Looking forward to reading them! This ring is going to be open for everyone, but participants in the spiral will be on top of the list.


From www.themanbookerprize.com:
In a red brick mansion block off the Marylebone Road, Vivien, a sensitive, bookish girl grows up sealed off from both past and present by her timid refugee parents. Through Vivien we discover the colourful characters at Benson Court, who play a part in the development of this at first, timid and unworldly young woman. Then, one morning, a glamorous older man appears, dressed in a mohair suit, with a diamond watch on his wrist and a girl in a leopard-skin hat on his arm. He is her Uncle Sándor but why, is he so violently unwelcome in her parents’ home?

The Clothes on Their Backs is a story about concealed pasts, dark subjects, dark places and stark choices and how the clothes we wear define us all.


Sending order (subject to changes):
* Xeyra - Portugal (shortlist roundabout)
* Sternschnuppe28 - Germany (shortlist roundabout)
* iliotropio - Belgium (shortlist roundabout)
* Laui - the Netherlands (shortlist roundabout)
* katrinat - UK (shortlist roundabout)
* cross-patch - UK (shortlist roundabout)
* lucy-lemon - UK (EU shipping)
* LindyLouMac - Italy (EU shipping)
* spiderchic - UK (Intl shipping)
* arturogrande - UK (Intl shipping)
* mrbaggins1 - South-Africa (Intl shipping)
* JenKazoo - USA (USA shipping)
* ... (USA to UK shipping, anyone??)
* mafarrimond - UK
* and back to me, franaloe



Journal Entry 2 by franaloe from Utrecht, Utrecht Netherlands on Wednesday, November 19, 2008
At the beginning I thought the book was nothing for me. It started all about clothes (duh!), and that is not really my piece of cake. However, later the story developed and I was really drawn into it.
Allthough this book wouldn't make it to my top 10 of best books, it was a pretty good read. It is definitely worth its place on the MBP-shortlist, but it is not a winner.

I'm sending the book to Xeyra today!

Journal Entry 3 by Xeyra from Seixal, Setúbal Portugal on Thursday, December 11, 2008
Arrived a couple days ago and I've started it today. :) Thank you for this opportunity!

Journal Entry 4 by Xeyra from Seixal, Setúbal Portugal on Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Much like franaloe, I wasn't much drawn to the first pages of the book. Honestly, I thought the writing was a bit childish and simplistic and the dialogue exchange between Vivien and Eunice rather boring. If the writing in the beginning mirrored the writing of the rest of the book, I couldn't quite understand why this book was getting shortlisted for this prize.

However, the writing and the subject of the novel changed after the 'prologue' of sorts and became much more engrossing, in-depth, interesting and well-told. Still, I never quite actually understood any of the characters as deeply as I wished. The only character you really know is the narrator, Vivien, and even then you're left wondering over some things in her life.

The end, though, kind of came back to the simplistic writing of the prologue. It took me right away from the engrossing history of Vivien's parents and uncle into a rushed summay of Vivien's life after the story was told (in a couple of paragraphs you learn what happened during a period of decades). The book should have ended at the part where Sandor tells of his life in his own words. Everything else was unecessary.

A good book but not great. I agree with franaloe that it's definitely not a winner.

Journal Entry 5 by Sternschnuppe28 from Flörsheim am Main, Hessen Germany on Wednesday, January 21, 2009
just received today - that´s wonderful! I am already curious.

Journal Entry 6 by Sternschnuppe28 from Flörsheim am Main, Hessen Germany on Thursday, February 19, 2009
I quite like the book, especially the characterisation of Vivienne herself and her uncle Sandor. The books has its weaknesses, but all in all it was nicely told and has an interesting structure and well-drawn characters.

I will send it off to iliotropio today.

Journal Entry 7 by iliotropio from Bruxelles / Brussel, Bruxelles / Brussel Belgium on Friday, February 27, 2009
Great, I´ve just received my first novel from the European Roundabout for Booker Prize Shortlist 2008!

Journal Entry 8 by iliotropio from Bruxelles / Brussel, Bruxelles / Brussel Belgium on Saturday, May 09, 2009
An O.K. read, had its good moments but I was expecting something more powerful which never manifested itself...Also, having read The White Tiger - which I loved- just before The Clothes on their Backs didn´t really help (although one cannot really compare the two novels).
I´ll just share with you the last sentence of the book: "Our vulnerability suddenly touched me, all our terrible, moving weaknesses contained in a jacket, a skirt, a pair of shoes".
On its way to Laui. Happy reading!

Journal Entry 9 by Laui from Utrecht, Utrecht Netherlands on Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Got it! I have almost finished my current book, so I'll start reading this soon. I'll keep you all posted on my progress.

Thanks for sharing!

Chapter two's first sentence (page 26) has caught me with delight:
"For the rest of my childhood, my parents and I rolled slowly and quietly like three torpid marbles across the lino floor,w hile below, under the laster ceiling rose and the ornamental cornices, the longest-serving resident of the flats moved silentl about in perpetual semi-darkness, her lamps fitted with low-wat bulbs and shrouded in fringed shawls to dim them down to hazy areolae of amber light, like car headlamps on a foggy morning." I mean: wow, how can anyone come up with something like that?

Journal Entry 10 by Laui from Utrecht, Utrecht Netherlands on Sunday, May 24, 2009
Finished. I'm not really sure what to think. Some parts were really nice and I liked those bits a lot. But other bits were too vague to my taste. And yet others were too fabricated (quite a lot of the references to clothes, actually). All in all I think the writing was not quite 'finished' it was too rough on the edges, if you know what I mean. But then again it was quite an easy read. Oh, and I preferred the second half, and I absolutely loved uncle Sandór!

I've got katrinat's address, so I'll be posting it on asap.

Journal Entry 11 by Laui at BookRing, by mail -- Controlled Releases on Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Released 10 yrs ago (5/25/2009 UTC) at BookRing, by mail -- Controlled Releases

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Posted to the UK yesterday. Have a safe trip!

Journal Entry 12 by katrinat from Southend-on-Sea, Essex United Kingdom on Friday, May 29, 2009
Arrived today, I seem to be getting all these books at once!

Journal Entry 13 by katrinat from Southend-on-Sea, Essex United Kingdom on Monday, June 22, 2009
Hmmm... I'm not sure what to say about this book, I enjoyed it, read it all in just 2 sessions and it was a good story BUT a Booker nominee! I wouldn't be surprised to see it on a Richard and Judy list, but it just didn't feel like literature enough to be a booker.
Will be sending this and The Lost Dog onto the next person this week - had a shocking month money wise (everything that could break did) so needed to skimp somewhere and postage went.

Released 10 yrs ago (7/4/2009 UTC) at -- Controlled Release, -- By post or by hand/ in person -- United Kingdom

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Hope you enjoy this, sorry for sending 2 books at once, finances were screwed last month!

Journal Entry 15 by wingCross-patchwing from Leicester, Leicestershire United Kingdom on Wednesday, July 08, 2009
I am currently half way through A Fraction of the Whole, good but slow work, when 2 more turn up on my door-step. Thank you very much but I'll never complete them in the time frame, but I will do my best. This one will be next up.

Journal Entry 16 by wingCross-patchwing from Leicester, Leicestershire United Kingdom on Monday, August 10, 2009
I forgot to write my journal entry. Apologies.

I did like this book. The block of flats where the parents lived were quite the star for me. Linda Grant shows a real sense of 'place'. I thought the light touch covering a really harrowing life story did the trick and therer are many glimpsing references in the book that will stay with me. I also loved Sandor!

Lucy-lemon has already read a copy, so I shall contact LindyLouMac to see if she is ready to read along.

Journal Entry 17 by wingCross-patchwing at to next participant, a ring/ray -- Controlled Releases on Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Released 9 yrs ago (8/12/2009 UTC) at to next participant, a ring/ray -- Controlled Releases

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On its way to Italy and sunshine.

Journal Entry 18 by LindyLouMac from Tywyn, Wales United Kingdom on Friday, August 28, 2009
Got it safely, thanks Cross-patch. I have almost finished my current book, so will start to read this next.
Thankyou for including me in this bookring Franaloe.

Journal Entry 19 by LindyLouMac from Tywyn, Wales United Kingdom on Tuesday, September 01, 2009
The narrator of the novel is Vivien Kovacs the only child of Hungarian immigrant parents, Ervin and Berta who keep themselves to themselves and are even secretive about their past with their own daughter. It is a tantalizing portrait of life for this family in 1970’s London, it is only after Vivien is grown up and once again living back at home after a personal disaster that she decides to discover her roots. Using snippets of information she has overheard as a child she discovers her father’s estranged brother Sandor. This sets off a chain of mainly tragic events but at least she learns the truth about her family.

This paragraph from the novel sums up for me how Linda Grant used clothes in this novel as an allegory of personalities.
‘The clothes you wear are a metamorphosis. They change you from the outside in. we are all trapped with these thick calves or pendulous breasts, our sunken chests, our dropping jowls. A million imperfections mar us. These are deep flaws we are not at liberty to do anything about except under the surgeon’s knife. So the most you can do is put on a new dress, a different tie. We are forever turning into someone else and should never forget that someone else is always looking’

The clothes descriptions are a clever use of imagery which I felt painted a very vivid portrait of not only the clothes but helped bring the characters personality and appearance alive on the page.

Journal Entry 20 by LindyLouMac at To the next participant, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases on Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Released 9 yrs ago (9/7/2009 UTC) at To the next participant, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases

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En route to spiderchic in the UK.
Happy reading

LindyLouMac

Journal Entry 21 by spiderchic from Droylsden, Greater Manchester United Kingdom on Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Sorry I have received this book and thought I'd journalled it... anyhow am just finishing "The Piano Tuner" and then this is next on my list. Thanks for sharing!

Journal Entry 22 by spiderchic from Droylsden, Greater Manchester United Kingdom on Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Am having real trouble finishing this book... quite possibly my state of mind at the moment am struggling so have decided to give up, am finding it a real chore and that is not what reading a book is about for me... I am pming arturogrande for their address.

Journal Entry 23 by arturogrande from Coalville, Leicestershire United Kingdom on Saturday, November 14, 2009
Thanks very much - I've been inundated with rings, but I'll try not to hold this one up for too long.

Journal Entry 24 by arturogrande from Coalville, Leicestershire United Kingdom on Sunday, January 31, 2010
I loved this book - it was one of those that I didn't want to end. I wanted to keep on learning more about Vivien, Eunice, Ervin, Berta - and particularly Uncle Sandor!
I thought it was very well written and I loved the clothing metaphors, some of which were so subtle, they almost passed me by, where a less confident author would have handled them in a much more heavy-handed way.
The way a lot of events in the characters' past - and present - were alluded to rather than told explicitly was a nice touch. I think it worked particularly well towards the end when (not to spoil anything) we realise why Sandor did what he did.
I agree with Cross-patch that there was a very strong sense of place throughout the novel and that the locations were characters in themselves.
Thanks for sharing this lovely book, franaloe, and I'm sorry to have held it up for so long.
Mrbaggins1 has asked to be skipped as he's already read it and I've been unable to get hold of JenKazoo, so it's now on its way to mafarrimond.

Journal Entry 25 by mafarrimond from Hawarden, Wales United Kingdom on Monday, February 08, 2010
I love the sound of this book. I will read it asap. Thanks for sharing.

Journal Entry 26 by mafarrimond from Hawarden, Wales United Kingdom on Monday, February 22, 2010
I can quite see how this book made the short list for the man booker prize. It flowed along revealing Vivian's ancestory and her own life choices. Thank you for sharing it with me.

Journal Entry 27 by mafarrimond at Texel, Oudeschild, Noord-Holland Netherlands on Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Released 9 yrs ago (2/25/2010 UTC) at Texel, Oudeschild, Noord-Holland Netherlands

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The book is on its way home!

Journal Entry 28 by franaloe from Utrecht, Utrecht Netherlands on Saturday, March 06, 2010
The book is home again. Thanks everyone for joining thsi ring!

Journal Entry 29 by franaloe at Café Gloria (OBCZ) in Zürich, Zürich Switzerland on Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Released 7 yrs ago (3/13/2012 UTC) at Café Gloria (OBCZ) in Zürich, Zürich Switzerland

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at the BC meeting in Gloria. Happy travels!

Journal Entry 30 by ella_prinzess at Zürich, Zürich Switzerland on Sunday, April 22, 2012
I picked it up in a cafe in Zürich on Easter vacation. Haven´t started reading yet. After scanning a few of the comments below I am curious.

Journal Entry 31 by raluk68 at București, Wallachia Romania on Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Got it - finally! :)
Thank you ULRK!

Journal Entry 32 by raluk68 at București, Wallachia Romania on Sunday, November 11, 2012
I gave this one a try, but didn't catch me. My surprise is that it is not a chick lit! :)
It has no humor, but drama, no fun, but youth thoughts ...hmm, not bad written but not my kind of story.
I will pass it on to someone more interested in this kind of books.

Journal Entry 33 by raluk68 at Cafe Lente in București, Wallachia Romania on Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Released 6 yrs ago (12/5/2012 UTC) at Cafe Lente in București, Wallachia Romania

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I release the book in Cafe Lente.
Brought for the winter's bookcrossing meet-up!


Dear finder,
You have not only found yourself a good book, but a whole community of booklovers dedicated to sharing books with each other and the world at large. I hope you'll stick around a bit and get to know BookCrossing -- maybe even make a journal entry on this book. You may choose to remain anonymous or to join.
Please share your thoughts with us!
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Read and give it forward! :)

Journal Entry 34 by winglamelemonwing at București, Wallachia Romania on Wednesday, December 05, 2012
Chosen from the meetup at Cafe Lente. Thanks! (and hi everyone, neat list of readers this book has touched!)

Journal Entry 35 by winglamelemonwing at București, Wallachia Romania on Monday, June 26, 2017
This book has been sitting on my TBR shelf for a very long time and I didn't pay that much attention to it over the years, expecting it to be some sort of chick-lit that I wasn't really in the mood for. I had a very pleasant surprise after throwing it into my work trip luggage. I liked the way the book handles different cultural traits and touches on historical events. The shades of the characters were also impressive.

Thank you for sharing, the book is now ready to meet its next reader :)

Journal Entry 36 by winglamelemonwing at București, Wallachia Romania on Saturday, December 16, 2017

Released 1 yr ago (12/16/2017 UTC) at București, Wallachia Romania

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Finally packed and ready to travel to chrissini in Austria via the One book a month offered 2017 - November thread.
Happy reading!

Journal Entry 37 by wingchrissiniwing at Graz, Steiermark Austria on Wednesday, December 27, 2017
Thank you so much for sending me this book, it really sounds so interesting.

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