The Clothes on Their Backs
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. Then one morning a glamorous uncle appears, dressed in a mohair suit, with a diamond watch on his wrist and a girl in a leopard-skin hat on his arm. Why is Uncle Sandor so violently unwelcome in her parents' home? This is a novel about survival - both banal and heroic - and a young woman who discovers the complications, even betrayals, that inevitably accompany the fierce desire to live. Set against the backdrop of a London from the 1950s to the present day, The Clothes on Their Backs is a wise and tender novel about the clothes we choose to wear, the personalities we dress ourselves in, and about how they define us all.
Winner of The South Bank Show Awards: Literature 2009. Shortlisted for Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2008.
** 'If you read only one novel this year, make sure it is The Clothes on Their Backs' SUNDAY EXPRESS ** 'A beautifully written and truly moving book about the experience of growing up in Britain as a second generation immigrant' EXPRESS ** 'It's a sublimely atmospheric and moving novel' LONDON PAPER ** 'This is a vivid, enjoyable and consistently unexpected novel' THE DAILY TELEGRAPH ** 'This is a terrific novel, bursting with life and vivid characters' MAIL ON SUNDAY ** 'Stitched beautifully into the fabric of her latest novel is an acute understanding of the role clothes play in reflecting identity and self-worth. Read on one level her story is accessible, her characters neatly sketched. On a deeper level this is a coming-of-age story not only about insecure girls like Vivien, but about Britain in the 1970s, insecure about its evolving racial mix. She is at home writing about the thrilling ripple of silk as she is charting social tensions. So: Prada or Primark? Rather enticingly, Grant provides the best of both SUNDAY TELEGRAPH ** 'This is a vivid, enjoyable and consistently unexpected novel' THE DAILY TELEGRAPH ** 'Her heroine, Vivien Kovaks, slightly resembles a rawer, angrier version of one of Anita Brookner's dutiful daughters ... such is the richness of Grant's plotting that the story encapsulates many untold narratives' THE TIMES ** 'THE CLOTHES ON THEIR BACKS is a return to the form of Grant's first and best novel, The Cast Iron Shore. Gripping and written with keen understatement, it manages to be a domestic coming-of-age novel... It is, in other words, that rare thing, a novel of big ideas that never forgets to tell a story' Rachel Cooke, EVENING STANDARD ** 'A meticulously textured and complex novel' Penny Perrick, SUNDAY TIMES ** So artfully construced that you barely feel you're reading at all, so fluid and addictive is the plot. But like all the best boks, the serious ideas it raises stay with you for a long time afterwards ... This is a wonderful, tightly written novel that ... is above all a masterclass in the perils of hypocrisy' OBSERVER ** 'Her novel is at once a beautifully detailed character study, a poignant family history and a richly evocative portrait of the late 1970s. INDEPENDENT
Linda Grant is a novelist and journalist. She won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2000 and the Lettre Ulysses Prize for Literary Reportage in 2006. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Vogue.