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Liza's England (Virago Modern Classics Book 42)

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Dauntless Liza Jarrett, born at the dawn of the twentieth century, is now in her eighties, frail and facing eviction with her cantankerous parrot Nelson, when she is visited by Stephen, a young gay social worker. As she learns to trust him, she recalls her life - her embittered, exhausted mother, her shell-shocked spiritualist husband, her beloved son and chaotic daugter. Dauntless Liza Jarrett, born at the dawn of the twentieth century, is now in her eighties, frail and facing eviction with her cantankerous parrot Nelson, when she is visited by Stephen, a young gay social worker. As she learns to trust him, she recalls her life - her embittered, exhausted mother, her shell-shocked spiritualist husband, her beloved son and chaotic daugter. Their friendship, deepening with the unfolding of their stories, comes to sustain Liza through her last battle and brings new courage to Stephen.


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Dauntless Liza Jarrett, born at the dawn of the twentieth century, is now in her eighties, frail and facing eviction with her cantankerous parrot Nelson, when she is visited by Stephen, a young gay social worker. As she learns to trust him, she recalls her life - her embittered, exhausted mother, her shell-shocked spiritualist husband, her beloved son and chaotic daugter. Dauntless Liza Jarrett, born at the dawn of the twentieth century, is now in her eighties, frail and facing eviction with her cantankerous parrot Nelson, when she is visited by Stephen, a young gay social worker. As she learns to trust him, she recalls her life - her embittered, exhausted mother, her shell-shocked spiritualist husband, her beloved son and chaotic daugter. Their friendship, deepening with the unfolding of their stories, comes to sustain Liza through her last battle and brings new courage to Stephen.

30 review for Liza's England (Virago Modern Classics Book 42)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    This was originally called The Century’s Daughter, because the main character was born in 1900. Barker wrote this in the 1980s and it is her third novel. Barker’s first three novels can be seen as a trilogy in themselves. They all concern working class women in the north of England and the toughness of their lives. This is about the life of one particular woman, Liza. The themes are familiar for those who know Barker’s work: mental health, the effects of war, family relationships and great struc This was originally called The Century’s Daughter, because the main character was born in 1900. Barker wrote this in the 1980s and it is her third novel. Barker’s first three novels can be seen as a trilogy in themselves. They all concern working class women in the north of England and the toughness of their lives. This is about the life of one particular woman, Liza. The themes are familiar for those who know Barker’s work: mental health, the effects of war, family relationships and great structural change. The novel is set in the 1980s when Liza is living alone (apart from a parrot called Nelson, who has been with her since the local pub closed in the 1960s) and in one room in the downstairs of her house. The houses are being knocked down and she is the only one remaining, all of the rest of the houses in the street are now empty, but Liza is refusing to move. During the novel we see Liza’s life as she looks back. In the present she is visited by Stephen, a social worker and we follow his story a little as well as he tries to come to terms with the local disaffected youth. He is gay and has his own problems to contend with as well. He visits Liza for the first time: “He saw how time had moulded, almost gouged out, the sockets of her eyes, how two deep lines of force had been cut into the skin between nose and lip, how the hand that came up to grasp the scarlet shawl was brown-speckled, claw-like, but finely made. He saw, too, that her neck was grained with dirt, that there was dirt in the lines of her face, that the scarlet shawl was stained with parrot shit. None of this mattered. Like a rock that wind and sea have worked on since the beginning of time, she needed to apologize for nothing, explain nothing.” On one occasion Stephen takes her out to look at the local landscape: “The wind keened across the brown land, and it seemed to Liza that it lamented vanished communities, scattered families, extinguished fires. Mourned the men who’d crowded to the ferry boat, at each and every change of shift, their boots striking sparks from the cobbles as they ran. She saw her father among them, and his voice echoed down the road that was no longer a road. Ginger-black, afraid of nobody. Men spilling out of the pubs to watch him race” Barker is very accurate in her descriptions of industrial decline and alienation which marked Thatcher’s Britain. The themes of violence, poverty, class and ambivalent community weave in with the nature of aging. We see Liza throughout her life as a strong woman, but in older age she is still at the mercy of cultural constructions of aged bodies and identities. Liza, who has been strong and vocal throughout her life is becoming silent, invisible and powerless. The powers that be are trying to prove she is “senile” to making moving her easier. The men in this novel are as powerless as the women, but they express their frustration and find relief in drinking, fighting and fucking. This is Barker at her sharpest when it comes to telling the story of class and alienation. Liza is a likeable character, with flaws but a good representation of strong working class women in the north of England. Barker is always worth reading!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ali

    Liza’s England; while it doesn’t quite have the depth or scope of either of Barker’s war trilogies it does concern itself with several of the themes of those novels. The effects of war – mental health and familial relationships, set against a landscape of change; Liza’s England is the story of a woman born on the stroke of midnight at the dawn of the twentieth century. Walker Street; somewhere in the North East of England, Liza Jarrett is now in her eighties – the same age as the century to the v Liza’s England; while it doesn’t quite have the depth or scope of either of Barker’s war trilogies it does concern itself with several of the themes of those novels. The effects of war – mental health and familial relationships, set against a landscape of change; Liza’s England is the story of a woman born on the stroke of midnight at the dawn of the twentieth century. Walker Street; somewhere in the North East of England, Liza Jarrett is now in her eighties – the same age as the century to the very minute, and she has a fragile newspaper cutting to prove it. She lives in the house she moved to in 1922 with her war damaged, spiritualist husband and young son. Now the houses on the other side of the street have been pulled down, replaced by high rise flats – and now Liza’s side of the street is condemned too. Undaunted Liza intends to remain in the house filled with the voices and memories of her life, despite being the sole remaining inhabitant in a street destined for demolition. Living entirely downstairs as she can no longer manage the stairs – Liza is content with the company of Nelson a parrot she adopted in 1967 when the pub where it lived closed down, and her precious box of mementoes close by. Mrs Jubb – a home help comes in more hours than she is actually paid for, and the three rub along ok in far from ideal conditions. Full review: https://heavenali.wordpress.com/2016/...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Leigh

    What tipped me over the edge from like to love was this passage: He'd been a little thin boy with a head too big for his shoulders and sharp, dark eyes, sharp enough to prick. He was always getting left behind. Liza remembered him running down the street after the other boys, calling, "Wait. Wait for me." But they'd never waited. They'd gone off: to the playground, the river, the slag heap, the sea. And he was left to follow.... ...[T]he attack that gave him a bullet in his throat had wiped a batt What tipped me over the edge from like to love was this passage: He'd been a little thin boy with a head too big for his shoulders and sharp, dark eyes, sharp enough to prick. He was always getting left behind. Liza remembered him running down the street after the other boys, calling, "Wait. Wait for me." But they'd never waited. They'd gone off: to the playground, the river, the slag heap, the sea. And he was left to follow.... ...[T]he attack that gave him a bullet in his throat had wiped a battalion out. He'd lain for three days in a shell-hole before he managed to crawl back to the British lines and ask for his regiment, only to be told that they were gone. Almost to a man. Gone. And as he was carried to the dressing station behind the lines perhaps he'd said, Wait. Wait for me. It's haunted me for years.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    This is an early novel by Pat Barker. Liza was born just after midnight at the very beginning of the 20th Century. She is now in her eighties, the last resident in a street that is slowly crumbling, due for demolition when its final resident consents to move. Stephen is a young social worker who is given the job of persuading her to give up her home, but he knows it will be a near impossible task. The story leads us through the years of Liza's life, bringing back the many people who have come and This is an early novel by Pat Barker. Liza was born just after midnight at the very beginning of the 20th Century. She is now in her eighties, the last resident in a street that is slowly crumbling, due for demolition when its final resident consents to move. Stephen is a young social worker who is given the job of persuading her to give up her home, but he knows it will be a near impossible task. The story leads us through the years of Liza's life, bringing back the many people who have come and gone, while she has seen the century unfurl. Concentrating on the years before World War 2, we see the tough life she has lived, with little money coming into the house both as a child and as a young wife and mother. We also observe Stephen's life, moving into a flat while he awaits the return of his boyfriend from a work trip to America, and visiting his mother and ailing father. As we learn more about the two main characters we see that though they have quite different lives, in the end they experience similar situations, have to deal with heartbreak and disappointment, some moments of pleasure, but mostly just trying to exist in their own ways. The eighties were not a great time, to put it mildly, for many people, especially in northern England, where unemployment was high, and life was often difficult for those who started off with little. Having said that, Liza and Stephen strike up a warm friendship, and although it is not written as plainly as two people sitting with a cup of tea and reminiscing about their lives, it is implied that the stories we read are shared between the two. There are many female characters in the book that suffer at the hands of men. There are a few sympathetic male characters, but mostly the men are responsible for the aggression and violence that occurs every so often (not to say that characters like Liza's mother cannot be mean and hurtful too). This struck me as a vital comment on the difference between men and women, however much of a generalisation it may be, a willingness to use violence as a means to an end. Some of the men have had the experience of war, and this may have led them to be more careless than they otherwise might have been, but it is one of the sad and depressing truths about people that men are more willing to fight to achieve an outcome. I read this quite quickly -it is not an overly long book anyway, but that was due to the excellence of the writing, and a bit of time on my hands. The speech is littered with dialectical phrases, some of which might sound unusual to readers not familiar with the north of England, but it is all essential to the story, and gives the characters a real authenticity. This could be a book about people anywhere, but it is particularly about the area of the country in which it is set. After authors win major prizes (in this case the Booker Prize in 1995 for The Ghost Road), you can read earlier books and wonder why not for that one? I did think that while reading Liza's England, but I guess that is the nature of prizes.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    Also know as The Century's Daughter, this is a wonderful novel about Liza, born on January 1 1900 and Stephen, a young gay social worker who has become disenchanted with the futility of his work. It's an early novel of Barker's and doesn't have the scope or polish of her astonishing Regeneration Trilogy but many of the themes; mental illness, class, and the ravages of WWI are all here. Happily recommended. Also know as The Century's Daughter, this is a wonderful novel about Liza, born on January 1 1900 and Stephen, a young gay social worker who has become disenchanted with the futility of his work. It's an early novel of Barker's and doesn't have the scope or polish of her astonishing Regeneration Trilogy but many of the themes; mental illness, class, and the ravages of WWI are all here. Happily recommended.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Katrina

    4.5 if possible. https://piningforthewest.co.uk/2020/0... 4.5 if possible. https://piningforthewest.co.uk/2020/0...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lynne Norman

    I was woefully disappointed by this book and I didn't think it was worthy of the author of the Regeneration trilogy. Yes it was readable and, in places, relatively moving. But I felt it lacked the subtlety and authenticity that Barker is obviously capable of - and the fact that Liza's social worker was a gay man seemed more tokenistic than of genuine merit. I felt as though the story was a balled up fist, trying to punch my buttons as hard as it could, rather than gently pulling on the heart str I was woefully disappointed by this book and I didn't think it was worthy of the author of the Regeneration trilogy. Yes it was readable and, in places, relatively moving. But I felt it lacked the subtlety and authenticity that Barker is obviously capable of - and the fact that Liza's social worker was a gay man seemed more tokenistic than of genuine merit. I felt as though the story was a balled up fist, trying to punch my buttons as hard as it could, rather than gently pulling on the heart strings. And at the end I was very unsure as to the message I was taking from the story and what, if anything, had been resolved.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Gill

    I think this is a book which would stand reading again because it is eighty four years of life densely packed with many fully formed characters. History is side by side with the eighties (also history now) and though the past was hard and heart breaking the verdict seems to be that in Thatcher's Britain greed is all that counts and the old solidarity is gone. The old houses are knocked down and the flats that replace them are poorly built and have no sense of community. Industry is dying and a g I think this is a book which would stand reading again because it is eighty four years of life densely packed with many fully formed characters. History is side by side with the eighties (also history now) and though the past was hard and heart breaking the verdict seems to be that in Thatcher's Britain greed is all that counts and the old solidarity is gone. The old houses are knocked down and the flats that replace them are poorly built and have no sense of community. Industry is dying and a generation is left adrift and aimless. Pat Barker doesn't sentimentalise the past but her view of the eighties is bleak. Plus ça change...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    Nowhere near as polished as Pat Barker's wonderful 'Regeneration' trilogy or 'Life Class' and 'Toby's Room', but this early novel is still worth a read. Tells parallel stories of Liza, born on the stroke of midnight 1900 and her social worker, Stephen in the 1980s. Liza is part of a northern working class community and experiences everything that 2 world wars and The Depression threw at such people. And yet, the modern day personal and social issues which Stephen has to deal with, drive him to L Nowhere near as polished as Pat Barker's wonderful 'Regeneration' trilogy or 'Life Class' and 'Toby's Room', but this early novel is still worth a read. Tells parallel stories of Liza, born on the stroke of midnight 1900 and her social worker, Stephen in the 1980s. Liza is part of a northern working class community and experiences everything that 2 world wars and The Depression threw at such people. And yet, the modern day personal and social issues which Stephen has to deal with, drive him to Liza for comfort and support. Not as depressing as it sounds; honest!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jean Marriott

    I am a fan of Pat Barker's writing, I have read most of her stuff, especially the trilogy about WW1. Although Liza's story is a bit bleak in parts, Barker's characters are true to life especially the women. The depiction of the hard life especially of the women in the era of the dying industries of the North is gritty and grim. This is a book that you think about even after you've finished it. I am a fan of Pat Barker's writing, I have read most of her stuff, especially the trilogy about WW1. Although Liza's story is a bit bleak in parts, Barker's characters are true to life especially the women. The depiction of the hard life especially of the women in the era of the dying industries of the North is gritty and grim. This is a book that you think about even after you've finished it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Set in northern England, about the life of a woman born at the beginning of the 20th century. Tenacious and strong-willed, despite a lifetime of working class hardship, Liza doesn't want to leave a house she has lived in since 1922. Her life is described in flashbacks. Especially disturbing is the overbearing behavior of the community's menfolk, unenlightened child rearing practices and the teen delinquency. The most uplifting part of Liza's life is her "spunky" personality; being a women for wh Set in northern England, about the life of a woman born at the beginning of the 20th century. Tenacious and strong-willed, despite a lifetime of working class hardship, Liza doesn't want to leave a house she has lived in since 1922. Her life is described in flashbacks. Especially disturbing is the overbearing behavior of the community's menfolk, unenlightened child rearing practices and the teen delinquency. The most uplifting part of Liza's life is her "spunky" personality; being a women for whom, in older age, life is worth living for the sake of living (after realizing that she has spent the better part of the last half century with many onerous family responsibilities). Although repetitious, I liked this book because the time line is the same as my own English family - - also reminds me of Pat Barker's prior books "Union Street" and "Blow Your House Down". Louise (Liza's mother) was one of the last generation in England to experience the dire consequences of inadequate family planning and health care (15 children - 9 surviving). Liza (2nd generation - same generation as my grandmothers, b.1885/1906) lives through some of the positive changes taking place in the country but remains firmly on the margins. Liza's husband (Frank) seems to suffering from WW1 PTSD and the consequent effects are devastating for his family (Liza and their two children - Tom and Eileen). The effects of WW2 are felt deeply; the loss of soldier sons and relatives is echoed in the community slum clearance. By the forth generation, some of the children are beginning to take advantage of the educational opportunities (Kath) available to the generation affected by the decline of industrial Britain. Although Margaret Thatcher is maligned, one can despair at the lack of self-responsibility that is often portrayed in these working class communities; but at least there are signs of an improvement in the quality of life - healthcare, education, council housing, child allowances and many other social benefits. The book would have benefited from more social, historical and town planning information being weaved into the narrative. Why weren't the council housing estates laid out more effectively and when the did the steel mill close? How did people get access to terraced housing and who owned the properties? Next book is: Pat Barker's "The Man Who Wasn't There" (1988) - just ordered it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jack Deighton

    Stephen is a social worker, troubled by the youths down at what passes for the local centre, and also by his parents who are uncomfortable with (or in his mother’s case unaware of) his homosexuality. He is assigned to Liza Jarrett, an old woman living with a parrott called Nelson (whom she inherited from a pub landlord when the pub closed down) in a terraced house scheduled for demolition but which she is unwilling to give up. Liza was born on the stroke of midnight at 1899’s turn into 1900 and Stephen is a social worker, troubled by the youths down at what passes for the local centre, and also by his parents who are uncomfortable with (or in his mother’s case unaware of) his homosexuality. He is assigned to Liza Jarrett, an old woman living with a parrott called Nelson (whom she inherited from a pub landlord when the pub closed down) in a terraced house scheduled for demolition but which she is unwilling to give up. Liza was born on the stroke of midnight at 1899’s turn into 1900 and dubbed ‘Daughter of the Century’ by the local newspaper, a clipping of which her father was very proud. This made her one of that generation who lost brothers in one war and sons in the next. The novel is, though, more a tale of female resilience in and around that century’s defining landmarks (which it deals with only tangentially, even if their repercussions impact mightily on Liza’s life.) It intersperses Liza’s memories with Stephen’s experiences in the present as he comes to appreciate her and her determination to make the best of things, to fend for herself, to depend on nobody, and, with its present being the 1980s, illuminates the passing of a sense of community, of worth, “‘that’s where it all went wrong you know. It was all money. You’d’ve thought we had nowt else to offer. But we did. We had a way of life, a way of treating people.’” There is some ground here to which Barker would return in her Regeneration trilogy (in particular the Great War and its munitions workers known as canaries.) While it tends to the bleak there are some moments of wry humour. At Stephen’s dad’s funeral, “‘It’s like a wedding in there,’ Stephen said. ‘No it isn’t,’ said Christine. Weddings aren’t that cheerful.’” This was Barker’s third novel and while the characterisation is good her writing had not quite yet attained the maturity it would display later. The story is engaging though and Liza’s life reflects the stoicism of the women of her generation and class not often exhibited in fiction with the novel overall a threnody for a lost solidarity.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jeannie

    Pat Barker is one of my favourite. authors. She's a historian and writes in a realistic way about the early part of 20th century, particularly about the after effects of the First World War. The Regeneration Trilogy and other books with the same characters - Art Class and Toby's War - follow the fortunes and misfortunes of a group of friends who studied together. I read these books first and was hooked. Liza's England tells the story of a woman born at the beginning of the century, now in her eig Pat Barker is one of my favourite. authors. She's a historian and writes in a realistic way about the early part of 20th century, particularly about the after effects of the First World War. The Regeneration Trilogy and other books with the same characters - Art Class and Toby's War - follow the fortunes and misfortunes of a group of friends who studied together. I read these books first and was hooked. Liza's England tells the story of a woman born at the beginning of the century, now in her eighties and that of a young man, Stephen, who has the unenviable task of telling her that the house where she has lived for years is due to be demolished. She will be rehoused, but she doesn't want to move. The point of view shifts between Liza and Stephen as she looks back on her life and Stephen thinks about his future. A bond of affection and respect grows between this resilient old woman and the ensitve, caring young man. What interested me most was the development of this relationship but I was also drawn into the story by Liza's complete acceptance of her role in iife. Daughter, wife, mother, carer. She doesn't question these traditional female roles, just lives them. Despite her feckless husbnad, Liza does her best to bring up her children on very little money. After her husband has gone, she earns the necessary money to feed her children any way she can, often by hard labour, such as scavenging for coal. She takes in her ailing mother and looks after her even though her mother admits she's never loved her. She'd only ever wanted boys. Her cantankerous mother had had a hard life too, having fifiteen children with only nine surviving. Their lives are shown without sentimentality. in a matter-of-fact way. For them it's the norm. I couldn't help thinking what a contrast Liza's attitude to life is to modern women's expectations and aspirations. This novel, without preaching or complaining, reminds us how even the lives of the most underprivileged women in our society have changed. But I couldn't help wondering if the feisty spirit of the Liza's of this world has been lost in the change?

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jackie Cain

    I've never read any of Pat Barker's books but heard her on Start the Week one week and determined to read one. This came up on a Kindle Daily Deal so I went for it and I was pleased that I had. The book was immediately engaging and clever how the key elements of the story and characters are introduced over the first few pages. Liza was born as the 20th century dawned (and one title for the book is "The Century's Daughter") and we meet her in the 1980s as she looks back on her life and how wars an I've never read any of Pat Barker's books but heard her on Start the Week one week and determined to read one. This came up on a Kindle Daily Deal so I went for it and I was pleased that I had. The book was immediately engaging and clever how the key elements of the story and characters are introduced over the first few pages. Liza was born as the 20th century dawned (and one title for the book is "The Century's Daughter") and we meet her in the 1980s as she looks back on her life and how wars and economic change have affected her and her community on Teeside. It is quite interesting to watch the portrayal of the 1980s, which are already over 30 years in my past. I wonder how much the 1980s' views influence the opinions put into the mouths of characters in the past, e.g. a labour councillor's views on the high rise flats then being built. Liza's is a long and varied life and there is plenty of misery in the book. However, in the part where we are seeing her memories of the past, the book comes alive and are quite vivid. I think in my present mood I could have done with a happier ending but it was nonetheless a good book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alyson

    This book tells the story of Liza born at midnight at the beginning of the twentieth century. Her family lives in harsh working class north and some of the social truths are brutal. Some fabulous descriptions and family interactions. It ties in with the life of Stephen, a sort of social worker with the task of trying to move Liza from the last house standing in her street. The contrast between the life Liza led and Stephen's life today is quite stark and yet the two have things in common. Well w This book tells the story of Liza born at midnight at the beginning of the twentieth century. Her family lives in harsh working class north and some of the social truths are brutal. Some fabulous descriptions and family interactions. It ties in with the life of Stephen, a sort of social worker with the task of trying to move Liza from the last house standing in her street. The contrast between the life Liza led and Stephen's life today is quite stark and yet the two have things in common. Well written with great descriptions. I should have liked to know what happened to Kath at the end however.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    Not exactly an uplifting read, but totally absorbing. This novel kept me company over a couple of bouts of insomnia and I finished it within 48 hours. Pat Barker's beautiful writing makes for effortless reading. Her characters are thoroughly grounded in reality and she doesn't shy away from the messiness and desperation life sometimes throws at us. Liza is an engaging and feisty character. The women in the book are mostly strong and unbreakable, unlike many of the male characters. Stephen, the g Not exactly an uplifting read, but totally absorbing. This novel kept me company over a couple of bouts of insomnia and I finished it within 48 hours. Pat Barker's beautiful writing makes for effortless reading. Her characters are thoroughly grounded in reality and she doesn't shy away from the messiness and desperation life sometimes throws at us. Liza is an engaging and feisty character. The women in the book are mostly strong and unbreakable, unlike many of the male characters. Stephen, the gay young man who befriends her, is strong in a different sort of way and his compassion for his fellow human beings, a rarity. Their tender relationship is a joy to behold.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Say

    It's the mid 80's (I think). Liza (84) needs to be decanted so her home can be demolished but she's holding out- this book tells of her life and the the impact of both World Wars on it through her Mum, Dad, brothers, sisters and grandchildren. Her story has parallels to Stephen's - her social worker. They enjoy each other's company. I enjoyed this less than some other of Barker's books- but then this may be as it was one of her earliest one's? It's the mid 80's (I think). Liza (84) needs to be decanted so her home can be demolished but she's holding out- this book tells of her life and the the impact of both World Wars on it through her Mum, Dad, brothers, sisters and grandchildren. Her story has parallels to Stephen's - her social worker. They enjoy each other's company. I enjoyed this less than some other of Barker's books- but then this may be as it was one of her earliest one's?

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    This is powerfully grim, a real working class tale, but engrossing too.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Gabrielle

    There are elements of this story that remind me of the first season of “Call the Midwife” — the setting, the general time period, the poverty. The writing is vivid, but the images aren’t pleasant.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lorna

    An early novel but a great story covering a North East woman's story through the 20th C. Brilliant prose and worth a read An early novel but a great story covering a North East woman's story through the 20th C. Brilliant prose and worth a read

  21. 5 out of 5

    Katie Moore

    Haunting and frank as Barker always is. The relationship between the two central characters becomes a window into each of their lives as they become closer.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Colby

    Grim, almost beyond bearing.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Betty

    The Pat Barker books I've read have always featured incredibly vivid characters, and Liza's England is no different. The first child in her town born in the twentieth century, eighty-four year old Liza recounts her life to her social worker Stephen. It's been a harsh life, a life of poverty, war, loss, abuse and hard physical labour. Meanwhile, Stephen is facing the challenge of being a social worker in the same area Liza grew up in, where poverty and unemployment is still rife. Liza's England m The Pat Barker books I've read have always featured incredibly vivid characters, and Liza's England is no different. The first child in her town born in the twentieth century, eighty-four year old Liza recounts her life to her social worker Stephen. It's been a harsh life, a life of poverty, war, loss, abuse and hard physical labour. Meanwhile, Stephen is facing the challenge of being a social worker in the same area Liza grew up in, where poverty and unemployment is still rife. Liza's England may be relatively short, but it's densely packed, without being too crowded. It is an undeniably a bleak book, and what happens to the characters is often brutal and grim. However, Pat Barker's writing is stellar and these characters will stay with me for a long time.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    This story, also called 'The Century's Daughter', is set in the late 20th century and features Liza Jarrett (born as the clock struck midnight on 31 December 1899 - hence the alternative title) and her social worker, Stephen. Stephen has been sent to persuade Liza to vacate her house and move into new housing so that her street can be demolished - she is the only resident left on the street and is living in pretty poor conditions but refuses to move. Rather than trying to persuade her to move, S This story, also called 'The Century's Daughter', is set in the late 20th century and features Liza Jarrett (born as the clock struck midnight on 31 December 1899 - hence the alternative title) and her social worker, Stephen. Stephen has been sent to persuade Liza to vacate her house and move into new housing so that her street can be demolished - she is the only resident left on the street and is living in pretty poor conditions but refuses to move. Rather than trying to persuade her to move, Stephen learns the tale of Liza's life - or so says the blurb. However, most of the sections telling Liza's story and merely her memories and reminiscences - Stephen is nowhere to be seen so she is not actually telling him her story. In between Liza's story, we also get episodes of Stephen's life - he is gay but this is not acknowledged by his family, particularly his father with whom he has a rather bitter relationship. On the whole, the individual stories were quite good but they could have been linked together more and so I found it a bit hard going at times, not up to the standard of her Regeneration trilogy certainly although there were episodes depicting the horrors of the First World War and how it affected those who managed to survive against all the odds. 6/10.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nionio Iren

    So, all in all it was a good book. I haven't read any of Barker's previous books, but I can say I quite enjoyed her writing. I would have liked a bit more historical background/events that took place or more details about how they shaped life as I felt she just touched the surface of some issues. I did enjoy Liza's journey through life even though at times if felt like Stephen's storyline was a bit irrelevant. Also i was not quite sure why (view spoiler)[ Eileen had to turn out so naive and usel So, all in all it was a good book. I haven't read any of Barker's previous books, but I can say I quite enjoyed her writing. I would have liked a bit more historical background/events that took place or more details about how they shaped life as I felt she just touched the surface of some issues. I did enjoy Liza's journey through life even though at times if felt like Stephen's storyline was a bit irrelevant. Also i was not quite sure why (view spoiler)[ Eileen had to turn out so naive and useless. Was it her mother's example with Frank that rubbed off on her? Maybe. But did Frank tiny influence had such a huge effect on her, especially since after a while Liza and him barely talked. I felt like Liza was a bit of a martyr and life, on top of bad choices like frank, threw more on her everyday. Then again it was hard times but is her brother's death in the first war and her son's death on the second war supposed to symbolise how her life on track with the historical events. I didn't buy that. Also, i would have liked to see if Kath broke the spell and did well in college. I would expect Barker to mention a visit of the granddaughter to her grandmother that raised her at least. (hide spoiler)]

  26. 4 out of 5

    Austen to Zafón

    I liked this book while I was reading it. It follows the main character's life from 1900 until her death, alternating with the story of a social worker who is trying to get her to move from her derelict house so that it can be torn down. It had some interesting (although grim) details about life for poor women in the first half of the 20th century, especially focusing on relationships between parents and kids. I wouldn't have wanted to be a child then. I would give it more stars, but the story h I liked this book while I was reading it. It follows the main character's life from 1900 until her death, alternating with the story of a social worker who is trying to get her to move from her derelict house so that it can be torn down. It had some interesting (although grim) details about life for poor women in the first half of the 20th century, especially focusing on relationships between parents and kids. I wouldn't have wanted to be a child then. I would give it more stars, but the story hasn't stuck with me like a good story should and I thought the ending was contrived. So, 4 stars for historical detail, 2 for plot, for an average of 3. If you're interested in the domestic history of 20th century England, you'll enjoy it. If not, I'm not sure the plot will hold you.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Babette

    After reading Resurrection by Pat Barker, I thought I would try an earlier book. I cannot remember why I picked this one, but I am not sorry I read it. It provides a good look at how changes in the world and society affected one woman's life. At first, I didn't think I would like it, but I didn't have to read to far to realize that I had been pulled into the story. There are better books, even by this author, but I am not sorry I read it. The characters are well-developed and the alternation bet After reading Resurrection by Pat Barker, I thought I would try an earlier book. I cannot remember why I picked this one, but I am not sorry I read it. It provides a good look at how changes in the world and society affected one woman's life. At first, I didn't think I would like it, but I didn't have to read to far to realize that I had been pulled into the story. There are better books, even by this author, but I am not sorry I read it. The characters are well-developed and the alternation between current day and the past make the story more interesting that if it were told chronologically.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Guy Salvidge

    I've actually read all thirteen of Barker's novels now and this is among the finest of them. Very much along the lines of her first novel, Union Street, this is a historical novel about life and death in England in the early twentieth century, as well as sections set in the 1980s. Barker writes as well or better than anyone, and while her themes are a tad repetitive, she's a master of her craft. This is a hearty, substantial novel that I feel enriched by. How often can I really say that? This is I've actually read all thirteen of Barker's novels now and this is among the finest of them. Very much along the lines of her first novel, Union Street, this is a historical novel about life and death in England in the early twentieth century, as well as sections set in the 1980s. Barker writes as well or better than anyone, and while her themes are a tad repetitive, she's a master of her craft. This is a hearty, substantial novel that I feel enriched by. How often can I really say that? This is far superior to her most recent, Noon Day.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Fishface

    A really good read, tracing the life of an incredibly elderly woman and the history she's seen in a hundred years of hard, hard living. It has a lot to say about how some people just have incredible powers of endurance, and use them even when there's no real reason to keep going on. The other statement in here is about how knowledge is power; Liza struggles all her life with the knowledge her mother withholds from her. A really good read, tracing the life of an incredibly elderly woman and the history she's seen in a hundred years of hard, hard living. It has a lot to say about how some people just have incredible powers of endurance, and use them even when there's no real reason to keep going on. The other statement in here is about how knowledge is power; Liza struggles all her life with the knowledge her mother withholds from her.

  30. 5 out of 5

    liza

    i only picked this up from my narcissistic tendency to float towards things with my name on them. it happens to be a very good story written in such a way that you hardly notice there was an author. the prose is almost style-less so you feel like you're a fly on the wall observing the entire story. this novel is just as much a story of Woman as it is of this woman in particular. i only picked this up from my narcissistic tendency to float towards things with my name on them. it happens to be a very good story written in such a way that you hardly notice there was an author. the prose is almost style-less so you feel like you're a fly on the wall observing the entire story. this novel is just as much a story of Woman as it is of this woman in particular.

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