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When All the World Was Young: A Memoir

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  163 ratings  ·  30 reviews
Acclaimed writer Barbara Holland, whom the Philadelphia Inquirer has called "a national treasure," finally tells her own story with this atmospheric account of a postwar American childhood. When All the World Was Young is Holland's account of growing up in Washington, D.C., during the 1940s and '50s, and is a deliciously subversive, sensitive journey into her past.
Paperback, 320 pages
Published February 21st 2006 by Bloomsbury USA (first published March 2nd 2005)
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This intelligent, literary memoir is about childhood during simpler times (the 1940s, though it could easily have taken place any time pre-80s, before urban sprawl and recent child-rearing fashions took hold. Indeed, I identified very strongly with the childhood Holland describes).

Unlike so many other memoirs, this one is absolutely engrossing without ever once relying on harrowing or shocking events. (Although serious family dysfunction and tragic events are present, they seem entirely incident
Kim Fay
"What happened to eccentrics? I suppose for a while we locked up the impecunious ones, and then we just medicated them all, and after that it was no fun anymore and they faded away." This is the kind of observation that fills "When All the World Was Young," Barbara Holland's clear-eyed look back on growing up in the 1940s and '50s. This is a memoir, yes, but it is also a testament to what it meant to be a child, teenager, mother, father, wife, and husband in a time before TV, the Internet, huggi ...more
This story is so much more than a brilliantly observant girl growing up in WWII-era Washington, D.C., more than the story of growing up in a home with an emotionally detached mother and wicked stepfather- it's also an authentic history of that time and a terrific look of how children were seen, how wives lived and how fathers (some) ruled the world.
Holland never victimizes herself and is anything but sentimental, yet it certainly seems her family alienation extended to her entire academic career
The best memoirs leave one wanting more. This is one of those. A lovely, incisively observed life. Holland is amusing without being silly, nostalgic without being treacly.

A telling excerpt:
"Several years ago a well-heeled friend said to me, 'I was brought up to believe you must never, ever dip into capital. Weren't you?' 'No,' I said, 'I was brought up to believe you must never, ever cross a picket line.' and we gazed at each other across the chasm."

I adored this book. Holland struck all the rig
Rosalind M
3.75 stars. Caustic, with a blindness to privilege that disturbed me (likely because my foremothers would have been the "help" that everyone took for granted). From the first chapter, the memoir read itself in Rosalind Russell's "Auntie Mame" drawl in my mind, which definitely colored my reception of it. The early part of her adulthood that was recounted was so murky and painfully abrupt that I wonder if it would have been better to end before she got that far.
It took me way longer than required to finish this memoir because I didn't want it to end. You know there are books you simply couldn't put down and had to devour the whole thing as quickly as you could? Well, with this one, it's a dilemma. As much as I enjoyed her writing and wanted to find out what happened next, I was reluctant to read fast. It was like a decadent slice of cake I wanted to savour. This book made me cry, made me laugh, and made me cry some more in the end. It definitely tugged ...more
This was a book club read for me. I will admit that I am not the biggest fan of memoirs. I did read the entire thing (didn't abandon it). I think I was waiting to find out about her time where she was forcibly committed to a mental hospital, but alas that never happened. I also wondered through the first quarter of the book whether she was forced to write this book during her therapy sessions as she never seemed like a very happy or satisfied person.

I do admit that some of this was probably on t
Great memoir from an interesting time in American history. The innocence/naivete that was prevalent in that period is sorely missed these days. Descriptive, yet fast-moving, the author's prose takes you through some important life issues as a young person finding their way in a nuclear world with funny anecdotes and relate-able social/family situations.
Delightful memoir. Such a way with words; sad little girl but an incredible insight and way to express it. It's terriffic!
Good writing again. The book made me really sad. Made me ponder life a bit.
A year or two ago I'm at the South Pasadena library looking over their 50 cent books on the sale table. I spotted this book, thought "sounds interesting," bought it, put it on my shelf, and forgot about it.

I recently picked it up and started reading. Wow, who is this woman? Never heard of her. This is one of the best memoirs I've ever read. I haven't read that many, but this is right at the top nonetheless. I will be reading more Barbara Holland in the future. I am sad to learn that she is alrea
I always enjoy reading Barbara Holland's books. Her imagery is unique and real. She writes so that you feel what happened. She also documented a time gone by (with the observation that, of course, all time has gone by). Despite the observation, she preserved a view of the 1950s that isn't a rehash of what is usually presented concerning the 1950s.
Holland's high school Shakespeare schedule (late 40's):
Freshman year: Romeo and Juliet
Sophomore year: Julius Ceasar
Junior year: Macbeth (oddly jammed among a year of American Lit)
Senior year: Hamlet

My high school Shakespeare schedule (mid 90's):
Freshman year: Romeo and Juliet
Sophomore year: King Lear (though I know other classes did Julius Ceasar)
Junior year: Macbeth (oddly jammed among a year of American Lit)
Senior year: Hamlet

This is not a profound point, but it made me laugh.
Jun 04, 2007 Suzy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Alexis Randell
Shelves: suzysshelf
This is one of my favorite memoirs. Funny, and familiar too. She grew up during the 1940's and 50's and much of what she talks about is what I remember from the 50's and 60's. Hilarious! She looks at childhood the way it used to be,Jump roping, sledding, playing outdoors with a gang of kids, brothers and sisters in a large family and so much more. All before the women's movement.

Barbara Holland is a very witty writer and I found myself laughting out loud all the way through! Loved it.
I LOVED this book! Holland's humor is wonderful. Her assessment of life growing up in the 50's and 60's was spot on for me. Who didn't have a "Father's chair" in their house? I sure did. A quick and wonderful read.
I loved learning about what it was like growing up in the 40s and 50s, what family life was like, the roles of men and women during the War, and social expectations. It makes history so much more relatable when it comes from a woman's perspective. I'd be interested in reading one of Barbara Holland's other titles.
Mar 21, 2011 Sarah added it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I am going to quit pretending to read this now. Poor book, I've been supposedly reading it for like two weeks and have gotten through about five pages. It's not the book's fault, it has fallen victim to my annual March college basektball- and Spring fever-induced reading lull.
This book struck a cord especially for a baby boomer.... Ms Holland's strong imagery evokes a time and place in our/my history. Her description of THE chair that livingrooms had- the one with the comfortable chair with a reading lamp... the chair no one sat in except the Dad.
The best book I've read thus far this year. Totally absorbing and extremely well-written. Even though this is a memoir, Holland tells her story in the larger context of the era in which she grew up (1940s and 1950s), which I found fascinating. A truly wonderful book.
Having grown up in DC, within walking distance of where she grew up, reading this was like a trip down memory lane for me. But biases aside, she her tale in a way that keeps you you reading. Anyone who grew up in the 40s or 50s should be able to relate.
Found this left on a bench in a mall. Never should have picked it up. The first chapter seems interesting but I struggled to get through a couple more chapters before deciding it was terrible and that I wasn't going to waste my time reading it.
grew up on meadow in chevy chase... wanted to have words w/ her stp father ... experience affected her life it seems... very interestingly written and fun to recall growing up in 40's and 50's... she may have been born about 1940...
Barbara Holland is truly fantastic - her observations, wit and style make her writing come to life so vivdly. This is a great account of her life, and also a light examination of how the "role" of the woman is defined in society.
Paul Klein
This memoir was the first Barbara Holland I had read. A delightful memoir, interesting because she herself is an interesting person, and because she gives fine tuning to "dysfunctional family."
Great insight into the life of one of my favorite authors. Like any memoir, much of it was painful to read and consider, but Ms. Holland manages to come through her trials fairly unscathed.
I loved this book. Perhaps you have to be "of a certain age"... I am of that age, and grew up in the suburbs of Washington DC, so I recognize much of Holland's turf.
I read the first chapters and skimmed the last...I'm taking a break from it because it's just too heavy, but certainly well written.
Outstanding. The most honest non-fiction I have ever read.
Pretty good!
May 09, 2011 Susan marked it as to-read
Recommended by MMM
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Barbara Murray Holland was an American author who wrote in defense of such modern-day vices as cursing, drinking, eating fatty food and smoking cigarettes, as well as a memoir of her time spent growing up in Chevy Chase, Maryland, near Washington, D.C.
More about Barbara Holland...
Endangered Pleasures: In Defense of Naps, Bacon, Martinis, Profanity, and Other Indulgences They Went Whistling: Women Wayfarers, Warriors, Runaways, and Renegades Gentlemen's Blood: A History of Dueling from Swords at Dawn to Pistols at Dusk The Joy of Drinking Bingo Night at the Fire Hall: Rediscovering Life in an American Village

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