Silvertown: An East End family memoir

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9781841151434: Silvertown: An East End family memoir
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Melanie McGrath’s critically acclaimed East End family memoir now in paperback.

In this remarkable book, award-winning writer Melanie McGrath has given us a vivid and poignant memoir of the East End. McGrath spent years wondering about her East End roots. At the turn of the twenty-first century the places where her grandparents lived out their lives Poplar, East Ham and Silvertown – are virtually unrecognisable; her grandparents, Jenny and Len Page, long since dead and already half forgotten.

Silvertown teems with stories of life in the docks and pubs and dog tracks of the old East End where Melanie McGrath's grandparents scraped a living. Here are the bustling alleys and lanes of Poplar in 1914, where eleven year old Jenny watches the men go off to fight; the Moses sweatshop on the Mile End Waste; the London docks, then the largest port in the world; and Jenny having her teeth pulled out on her seventeenth birthday. Here too is the Cosy Café, opened full of hope by Jenny and Len – later a home to their troubled marriage – and an East End landscape which is altered forever by the closure of the docks and the disintegration of this close knit community.

The places Melanie McGrath describes have largely vanished now. This evocative and deeply moving family memoir recreates the lost East End and the struggles of those who live there.

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Review:

Silvertown is the story of the life of author Melanie McGrath's grandmother, Jenny Page. As McGrath acknowledges, "It was the kind of life that could have belonged to a thousand women living in the mid years of the twentieth century in the East End of London. Except that it didn't. It belonged to Jenny". McGrath's achievement in the book is to make Jenny's very commonplace, circumscribed life not only believable and moving but also to turn it into a mirror in which the reader can see the changes that the century visited upon the East End. When Jenny was a young girl, the London docks were the biggest port in the world, teeming with life and industry. By the time she was an old woman, all the docks were closed and the old East End was a part of history. Not that Silvertown encourages nostalgia. The descriptions of Jenny's impoverished childhood, of the pulling of all her teeth on her 17th birthday, of the sweatshop where she worked, are enough to make readers throw away any rose-tinted glasses they might be tempted to use. Very occasionally the dialogue in the book lapses into the "Cor, blimey, strike a light, guv'nor" kind of Cockney heard in so many bad British films of the black-and-white era. Largely, both dialogue and narrative combine to provide a remarkably convincing and lively portrait of an ordinary life rescued from oblivion and of a world that's gone.--Nick Rennison

Review:

'McGrath tells her story in a novelist's idiom, and the result is extraordinarily powerful and curiously resonant. Like much of the East End, Silvertown today is in the process of an astonishing transformation. The curse on the area has been lifted. But McGrath has beautifully recorded the old Silvertown just before it disappears for ever.' Sinclair McKay, Daily Telegraph

'This is a remarkable account of the social history of the East End. It provides a rare bridge between those two separate Londons; for while the story belongs to a mysterious past, the style and sophistication is strikingly contemporary.' Anthony Sampson, Guardian

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9781841151427: Silvertown: An East End family memoir

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ISBN 10: 1841151424 ISBN 13: 9781841151427
Publisher: Fourth Estate, 2002
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9780753152232: Silvertown: An East End Family Memoir (Reminiscence)

ISIS L..., 2003
Hardcover

9780753152249: Silvertown: An East End Family Memoir (Reminiscence)

ISIS L..., 2004
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