[Epub] ➣ We Had It So Good ➤ Linda Grant – Pdfr25.co

10 thoughts on “We Had It So Good

  1. says:

    The sixties generation broke free of the duty bound rigors of their Depression era parents and the social constraints of materialism, creating a counterculture of hippies dedicated to revolutionary change As a secular Jewish middle aged baby boomer, I can well relate to Linda Grant s portraiture of aging boomers that once embraced the youth and change and idealism of a new and outrageous culture of acid rock music, heady hallucinogens, diversity, and sexual freedoms.Grant is the British author of Orange prize winning When I Lived in Modern Times 2000 , about a displaced London Jew who heads for Palestine, and The Clothes On Their Backs 2008 , about a daughter of Jewish immigrants, which was short listed for the Booker prize Moreover, Grant is an award winning journalist who closely observes the effect of a social climate on its inhabitants In her latest novel, she creates an atmospheric arc that extends from the radical sixties and moves through historical landmarks and landmines such as Bosnia, 9 11, 7 7, and the Internet.The novel succeeds with sublime precision, avoiding soapboxing and sentimental ruts Its power arises partly from the narrative form that deepens with the accretion of detail and the passage of years Chapters alternate with multiple viewpoints of various characters, but don t expect an equal distribution or conventional symmetry of voices Grant intentionally changes tenses and perspectives throughout, sporadically keeping us in the dark about who is talking The dissonant intervals bear close attention, which heighten the reading experience, so it appears that the author had a purpose in her contract with the reader There was something Stravinsky like about its force, pushing the boundaries of convention with its provocative rhythm and unpredictable turns.The first half of the novel lacks a visible anchor It roams forward at a slight remove, but there s an assured and poised undercurrent that keeps the reader trusting the author There isn t a lot of plot action in this multigenerational epic the big events are a background for the interstitial tale of people that revolted against their parents ideals and desperately sought self realization, while grappling with apathy and complacency and the succor or rancor of their childhoods.Stephen Newman, the central character, a high strung hypochondriac and secular Jew from California, born in 1946, is the son of a Polish Jewish immigrant and a Cuban refugee mother He meets a trio of intellectual hippies while studying science at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar in 1968, and they all become lifelong friends After some unexpected downturns, he marries one of them, the Pre Raphaelite looking Andrea, in order to avoid the Vietnam draft, and finds love and contentment in Islington, carving out a dignified career making documentaries for the BBC and raising their two children.Andrea, an intuitive offbeat beauty with crooked teeth and luxuriant, tawny hair, finds her niche as a psychotherapist Her best friend, Grace, the astonishing beauty with a plump trust fund and deep psychic wounds, is a rebel even for the sixties, and globe trots from one country to another with her pent up rage and hand made clothes Ivan becomes a successful investor and godfather to the Newman s children, Marianne and Max.So what happens here Is this a cautionary tale, homage to the sixties, a character study of self realization against a backdrop of social change Grant illuminates the often frustrating dissatisfaction of ideals how time eradicates the hope and potential of a generation that hung onto the promise of youth How can I be fifty, he asked himself, when I only just began Stephen had it so good or did he His free floating anxiety about the choices he has made and the promises to himself he didn t fulfill careen like a bad twitch through his soul Theirs was the generation of eternal youth, and that was their privilege They were supposed to be exceptional, not settled into routine.As the story unfolds and expands to include three generations, the novel becomes a map and a mirror of the human condition, of each generation s desire to break out of the mold of their parents and embark on a trajectory of trail blazing success, or maybe just to become invisible The metaphor of illusion is brilliantly summoned in the chosen professions of Max and Marianne.Beyond the current, quick pace of everyday life in the millennium and a tendency to conclude, respond, and move on with instantaneous speed and recovery, this is a rare book that will germinate in the mind of the observant reader after the closing pages Its esteem rises with each passing day of reflection Like the lush and dense gardens that bloom between its pages, this story grows as it is tended and cared for with time and patience What is apparent at first becomes a portal to , and continues to nurture the hearkened soul of the dedicated reader no one wants to open the doors of perception any, acid was about revelation, about the vision of what lies beyond the rim of the knowable, it s a drug for revolutionaries, and they have no interest in revolution And the other thingit takes up so much bloody time, eight hours minimum and then a day or two to recover If I had to market it I d aim the product exclusively at retirees.

  2. says:

    This book gets five stars because it moved me to tears Very few authors possess the capacity and the skill to do that to create a world in your imagination that enables you to become so attached to the characters about which they are writing that you gasp as I did and burst into tears when those characters are gone Having said that, it s not immediately obvious this is a five star book It kind of snuck up on me, with at least a few of the characters oscillating between mildly annoying and intensely irritating But that is part of Linda Grant s skill The portraits of Stephen, Andrea, Grace, and Ivan are so finely sketched that I cannot help but admire the language in which their lives are crafted, if not the life each character lives It s perhaps a little reminiscent of Phillip Hensher s The Northern Clemency, although not as long It s one of the those sprawling British generational sagas, even if the story begins with an American who arrives in England as a Rhodes Scholar with an Afro He uses his scholarship to learn how to make LSD in the university s science lab, but is kicked out of Oxford for defacing a book, namely ripping the pages out of the science book that told him how to make LSD Have I whetted your appetite yet

  3. says:

    Linda Grant s We Had It So Good is the first title selected for the Virago Book Club it is fair to say that this novel would not be on my radar otherwise, but I am very glad to have read it We Had It So Good follows three generations of the same family during the second half of the last century and the first years of the current one the focus is particularly on the baby boomers of the family, but there are themes and patterns that run across the experiences of the different generations.Stephen Newman is an American who comes to Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship in the 1960s, but is expelled on the discovery of his drug manufacturing activities Not wishing to be drafted to Vietnam, the only way that Stephen can avoid having to return to the US is to marry Andrea, the English girl he met and fell in love with at Oxford Though this is rather a marriage of convenience, it lasts the couple move to London, at first living in an urban commune, as their friend Ivan puts it Don t think of it as a squat, p 58 , but eventually making successful careers, he as a maker of science programmes for the BBC, she as a psychotherapist They have children, Max and Marianne, whose lives come to have their own ups and downs then Stephen finds himself in his fifties, wondering what happened to the kid he still feels he is.Stephen is the fulcrum of Grant s novel, though the actual structure is episodic, moving between viewpoint characters without a fixed pattern there are a couple of confusing points where viewpoint shifts within a scene, but this is a minor issue The effect is a series of moments building up into a whole and, happily, We Had It So Good works well at both those levels.Grant captures some very interesting and effective moments on the page Sometimes, this is a result of her description here, for example, is the young Stephen reflecting on his differing perceptions of the US and UK Stephen felt that he had come from a country so brand new that if you peeled off the layers of the present you would only find present Here, the continuous uncovering of the past, history s insistence of not getting out of the way, was depressing It reminded you that soon you would be bones under the ground One day you might be a fossil unearthed and on display in the Pitt Rivers museum p 13 At other times, there are striking contrasts within scenes One example is when Grace one of Andrea s and Stephen s friends from Oxford who embraced fully their friendship group s 1960s ideals, and has spent her life travelling abroad visits for Christmas Young Marianne has built up a mental image of Grace as an exotic, almost fantastical figure, with wonderful stories to tell it s quite a shock to her and us to then meet Grace and find instead a weathered woman who insults Marianne as soon as looking at her.Shortly after this, there s another particularly strong scene where Max performs a magic show for the assembled friends and family, and his parents differing reactions really illuminate their characters he s absorbed in trying to work out how the tricks are done, whilst she asks herself if Max s desire to perform means she didn t give him enough attention when he was younger I find these and other observations of Grant s very acute.At the broader structural level, We Had It So Good highlights the turn of the generational wheel, and how life never quite turns out the way one expects When Stephen looks back on his life and wonders how he got from there to here, from his youthful dreams to a middle age which is comfortable, but still middle age, we might wonder the same though each of his and Andrea s decisions though life make sense at the time, we have experienced them as episodes, and so have the same sense though for a different reason of not understanding the complete journey.In addition to this, the tales of the younger Andrea s and Stephen s exploits seem unreal to their children, who can t reconcile what they hear with the image they have of their parents Yet the same goes for Stephen s parents, aspects of whose earlier lives are as unreal to him and there is a sense that Marianne and Max are living stories that will in turn seem extraordinary to their children So it goes on We Had It So Good is fine both as a series of snapshots, and a larger portrait of life And, in Linda Grant, I have another author whose work I should investigate further.

  4. says:

    I loved The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant and eagerly anticipated her latest novel, a tale of the baby boomer generation who indeed had it so good and perhaps did not appreciate their good fortune.The novel is first and foremost character driven, covering 40 years in the lives of first generation American, Stephen Newman, his English wife, Andrea, their family and friends Stephen, son of a Polish Jewish immigrant father and a Cuban mother, manages to dodge the draft thanks to a Rhodes Scholarship during which he meets and marries Andrea, a pleasant English girl with bad teeth It is initially a marriage of convenience as he avoids the horrors of war but they settle into each other despite Stephen s occasional pangs for American life Somehow, despite little effort on his part, they land on their feet, having fully enjoyed the benefits of free university education, easy access to the property ladder, free health care, job opportunities in part due to the sacrifices of their parents generation.So, is Stephen counting his blessings Far from it, he is a most unlikeable character, taking everything for granted, never satisfied with his life, completely out of touch with his own children yet berating in private his own parents for their lack of affection His friend Ivan, with whom he experimented in LSD manufacture whilst at Oxford, seemed to personify anarchy as a student but ends up as an advertising executive The only character who stands true to her rebellious student stance is Grace who certainly doesn t find her honesty rewarded.In this very thoughtful novel, Linda Grant lets her characters speak for themselves, hanging themselves as they do so None of them have great emotional depth as they are from a self obsessed generation, too busy contemplating their own navels to have developed any empathy along the way Admittedly they might veer dangerously into stereotype territory at times but the author reins them in sufficiently so we can capture the zeitgeist of a generation, clueless but well meaning, complacent yet ambitious It is especially interesting to compare the baby boomers with our current youth who genuinely don t have it so good.So, plenty of food thought here in this insightful, extremely readable novel You might not like the characters but you will develop an understanding of what motivates them and how their emotional and social inheritance moulded them this way A very interesting, well written novel which will make you think, long after the final page is turned.

  5. says:

    I was really looking forward to reading this novel and started it with an open mind, but have to say it was all a bit meh It struck me as little than an everyday story of Islington folk a middle class soap opera.I didn t really sympathise with any of the characters and even felt quite distanced from them, perhaps as I m between the ages of Stephen and Andrea and their children Reading the book felt like watching a film I wasn t particularly interested in it was all going in front of me, but wasn t involving and didn t hook me in This was also true of the descriptions of historical events, for example 9 11 and 7 7, as the characters reactions to them didn t chime with my memories of the time.Perhaps the most successful aspect of the novel for me was Stephen s strong memory of trying on Marilyn Monroe s fur aged nine, an image he treasures and returns to again and again However, his father who was there at the time doesn t remember it, which for Stephen takes away from his precious memory This rung true for me as I m sure we ve all got memories like that and are bruised to discover that what is precious to us may not even have left a dent in someone else s memory.Another leitmotif of the book is the way that Stephen is constantly comparing himself to Bill Clinton, whom he knew when they were both Rhodes Scholars at Oxford This comparison is deliberately or not ironic, as Stephen feels he has failed in his life while Clinton has succeeded Were anyone to ask Clinton, whose Presidency ended in disgrace, about his life, he may well feel the same as Stephen The underlying message seems to be that we all blunder about doing what we can in life, but end up in places we hadn t planned to, not knowing how we got there Even those who plan their path, like Andrea, can t control anything and have very different lives to those they imagined.The novel also seems to be saying that, even or perhaps especially among families, other people are ultimately unknowable and that what they say about themselves can t always be trusted Stephen s father being a case in point, with his Mad Men like identity change.A positive aspect, however, is that having a bad upbringing doesn t necessarily mean that the characters will have a bad life and repeat the sins of their own parents to the same extent In our current age of misery memoirs this makes for a refreshing change.I didn t find all the characters totally successful Grace was a bit too much larger than life and at times seemed to be there as a dreadful warning rather than as a living breathing person Max also didn t seem fully drawn, and there s something a bit too pat about having Marianne always linked to sight e.g being a photographer and Max being associated with hearing e.g he suffers temporary deafness as a child and marries a deaf woman His interest in magic and illusion also seems to act as a metaphor for the lives of everyone in the novel nothing is real, and what you see isn t necessarily what you get.Trying to write a novel covering a period of over half a century is always going to be an ambitious challenge, and though there are good things in We Had It So Good , I think perhaps Linda Grant s ambition was greater than her success.

  6. says:

    Linda Grant writes like a dream She has the most amazing ability to illuminate lives, to find what we all hold in those tiny corners we guard in just a few quick sentences Grant s most recent novel is We Had It So Good This time the story is about a young couple who meet at Oxford in 1969, marry, have children and eventually face up to what they thought they would be and what they have become Stephen is a Rhodes scholar from a working class, Jewish family in California suddenly in a world he is unprepared for culturally and competitively Andrea is the daughter of absentee parents at Oxford to study psychiatry When Stephen gets bounced from University they marry For Andrea it s a love match for Stephen it s a way to avoid Vietnam and the draft Surprisingly the marriage takes The squatterville section of London they settle in during the property is evil days of the sixties ends up being worth a couple million, Andrea becomes a successful psychotherapist and they have two independent, cynical and judgmental children, Max and Marianne Stephen uses the times to play hippie, he uses his science degree to make LSD, uses his connections to become a BBC producer , his charm to bed other women and in general sits back emotionally letting life happen to him As the couple reaches their fifties luck seems to finally abandon them.In middle age Stephen and Andrea and most of their friends from college days have reached a comfortable abundance in their lives The fires they planned to light when they were young have given way to living essentially the same lives, with the same desires, as their parents Their children are dismissive of their parents achievements both past and present, retirement is looming and caring for their own aging parents The generation that saved the free world and that has to rankle is on the doorstep.These rebels of the sixties have made big changes happen socially and technologically but have they come anywhere near fulfilling the promise of their early days Taking We Had It So Good in this direction, Grant could have easily made her novel a mocking condemnation of wasted opportunity populated with caricatures of former rebels Instead she did what she does best She takes ordinary characters with ordinary lives and brings them, their choices and their cultural experiences into focus with a steady unsentimental eye We Had It So Good is not Grant s best novel but it is very, very good and I will gladly take close to the best from her verses the best from a thousand other authors.

  7. says:

    Grant s novel time wise emcompasses a broad palette from the fifties to the present decade, and spans two continents It swirls back and forth across these settings, taking the reader on an incredibly engaging journey I found it, as a book, very hard to stay away from and was pleased I had an Easter break to complete it Half way through I ordered another of Grant s offerings, the award winning The Clothes on Their Backs As the aforementioned decades are my time frame as well, I could relate to it so much, even if the journeys involved were dissimilar The centrepiece of the opus character wise is the Newman family, with Stephen son, husband and father the main focus The family members are all everyman , with perhaps the exception being Marianne who, alone of the three generations, achieves a degree of fame of sorts From flawed lifelong friend Grace to a grandfather who hides his secrets well to a wife, the fulsomely figured in all senses of the word Andrea, their inter relationships of love and loss are sensitively chartered and deeply engrossing The UK for these is the land of opportunity , the US being found, for all its shininess, simply an illusion of promise As such the novel is a portent for today s fall from grace The great events of the period in question are alluded to as signposts spiked throughout the read, and it is Steve s daughter Marianne that suffers their impact the most Stephen himself has a brief encounter with a man who went on to shape these world events.Stereotypically Grant s creations follow the babyboomers path from the addled hopes of the sixties through the reality check decades to become the materialistic have it alls of the noughties The author s prose shines and shimmies, and Grant could become a very favourite

  8. says:

    I found the characters in this novel and their thoughts on the world to be insufferable I guess I have to give Grant credit, that she s a strong enough storyteller to get me to finish a book where just about everybody in it is some variation of a self absorbed jackass or a hopeless bore But I ll just mention four main complaints 1 All the main protagonists are privileged hippies who met attending Oxford Once I figured that out, I should have stopped reading right then and there, because there are few things I hate on the planet than privileged Boomer hippies.2 America is a major theme of the book, but Grant paints our country in the hoariest of cliches L.A is sunny, glamorous, optimistic, and filled with beautiful people Middle America is flat, boring, irredeemable, and populated by a bunch of ignorant fatsos As a native Californian who now lives in the Midwest, let me just say I find her take on both to be superficial at best In brief, I find L.A s optimism to be skin deep It is a land that eats its young And I find most Midwesterners to have a core decency, a little of which most of the self obsessed SOBs in Grant s novel could have used.3 There are a series of extended table discussions on the issues of our day ex advertising, terrorism, selling out that operate on the intellectual level of a daytime TV coffee klatsch 4 Just about everything interesting from the era gets ignored I was hoping that a novel about a bunch of avant garde friends coming of age in England during the late 1960 s early 70 s might include cameos or references to David Bowie, Nick Drake, T Rex, Led Zeppelin, etc Instead we get a few facile genuflections about Bob Dylan Yawn.

  9. says:

    Our parents had the war That was their big thing We had ideals, Ivan said, most of them cranky and failed, but we did dream, didn t we Dreamers indeed Linda Grant gives us an astute portrayal of the Hippie generation as a kind of lost generation Four friends are telling the story Stephen, the ultimate American sunnyboy, never growing up and spending his whole life playing, while eating candy and taking drugs his wife Andrea, a practically minded psychiatrist who seems to find solace in the agony of her patients Grace, the beauty with a profound understanding of surfaces ,about whom Andrea remarks Her life was like scaffolding it held her up from the outsinde Ivan, a mercantile genius, who is effortlessly making lots of money in advertising and secured himself a soap opera star for a wife Their generation and views are counterposed by Marianne and Max, the children of Andrea and Stephen Marianne thought her parents Generation where phoneys They had been given everything and squandered it, they had eaten up the planet I will have to think about that one for a while I love the unconventional construction of the story, with its jumps in time, the oddball protagonists and Grant s clear sighted dissection of their motivations and shortcomings But was the hippie generation in hindsight really just a huge missed chance, a golden age of mankind with magic opportunities, that the children of love let run through their fingers like sand

  10. says:

    I received this book as a prize in a goodreads giveaway I was interested to read the story based on the description of Stephen trying on Marilyn Monroe s fur coat That is about as good as the story gets.I read other reviews after I read this story and I guess I just don t get it If I didn t have to write a review to fulfill the agreement for accepting the book, I wouldn t have bothered to finish reading it.The book reads as a series of short stories jumping between third person and first person pov I had to reread portions to figure out who was speaking In the third person chapters I was looking for information about each character The story spans forty years weaving in some historical events The children of the main characters are born and then are suddenly in their 20s the age at which their parents wed and seem to have no connection with them I m sorry that I didn t enjoy the book .

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