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Maggie & Me

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  1,002 ratings  ·  154 reviews
BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week, Winner of the Stonewall Award and The Sunday Times Memoir of the Year.

"Damian Barr sifts through the wreckage of a horrific childhood and manages to extract humour, generosity of spirit and ultimately joy. To say I loved it doesn't begin to convey the mixture of emotions - tears, laughter, anger - I felt while reading it." — Jojo Moyes.

Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 11th 2013 by Anansi International
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Average rating 4.11  · 
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 ·  1,002 ratings  ·  154 reviews

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Like a cross between Angela’s Ashes and Toast, this recreates a fairly horrific upbringing from the child’s perspective. Barr was an intelligent, creative young man who early on knew that he was gay and, not just for that reason, often felt that there was no place for him: neither in working-class Scotland, where his father was a steelworker and his brain-damaged mother flitted from one violent boyfriend to another; nor in Maggie Thatcher’s 1980s Britain at large, in which money was the reward ...more
Feb 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This memoir is very real – it’s frank, and matter-of-fact. A childhood that, in this case, was very difficult. As the title suggests it touches on the way Margaret Thatcher, and the life she imposed on Britain, touched a life. But it doesn’t focus on that. Don’t imagine it is a book about her. Rather, it is about a life of someone who has made that life worthwhile, and successful, in the present day, but who had to travel a rough road to get there.
Because of its nature I found it difficult to
Jun 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I am a huge fan of Damian Barr's The Literary Salon podcast (link below) and have been looking forward to this book for ages. Excerpts from Maggie & Me featured on a recent episode and I laughed out loud and shed a tear from sadness whilst on a Melbourne train, all in the span of a few minutes. Barr nails the voice; of course he does, it's a memoir, but not for a moment did I feel I was being told a story. I was living it, alongside a young Damian.

I am not a fan of the misery memoir, mostly
Nov 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
I devoured this memoir on a flight (and then, in a happy haze, left my iPad in the seat-pocket, argh). I wasn't previously familiar with Barr, a British journalist. His tale of growing up poor and gay in 1980s Scotland was fantastic. Funny and poignant. He might perhaps have done a slightly better job weaving in the bits about Thatcher, but what was there was thought-provoking.
Donna Lees
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I felt this book was brilliant. The author was brought up in the next village to me. I actually went to the opposite high school from him taylor high mentioned. I feel this book was very well written and depicted a very clear account of what it was like growing up in Lanarkshire in the Thatcher era and council estate and of the poverty and lifestyle choices of a lot of people in the area.

This book had me hooked and felt it wAs sad to finish it although bit of a feel good book to see how well
Hannah Wingfield
Sep 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
A memoir about growing up in working class Scotland in the 1980s, this book reminded me of Kerry Hudson's work, but is of course its own story too. Damian was born into a fairly unremarkable family but by middle childhood his parents were divorced and his mother (his primary carer) had experienced a stroke which had long-lasting effects. She (and Damian) go on to live with a succession of unpleasant men, whilst Damian seeks solace in books and friendships (though the latter also prove difficult ...more
This book is a true gem! Funny and sad and clever and well written and I enjoyed every minute of it. The author grew up in Glasgow in the 1980s and certainly had plenty of obstacles to overcome. But with a few good friends and some supportive adults he was able to do well at school and build a successful life, and be confident to just be himself. In spite of all the hardships, this is a positive and uplifting book.
Jun 07, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Bettie, Carey
From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week:
Damian Barr's reads his entertaining memoir of growing up in a Scottish steelworking town.

Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such pure, honest writing. An amazing read.
Melissa Jane
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sitting on my sofa, tears streaming down my face. I’m crying for the boy in the book, for the man he had to struggle to become. I’m thinking of the boys and girls I’ve worked with over the 17 years I was a youth worker. The ones I’m no longer there for. The ones in the future. The harshest of places to be different, those inner-city London schools where “batty man” remains the worst thing you can be called. The invisible walls put up blocking the young non-binary, the gay, the lesbian, and those ...more
Sep 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Damian Barr writes about a time I know very well: Thatchers Britain. It’s funny and sad, very observational. It captures poverty, the era, attitudes and the darkest aspects of Scottish life as the mines closed.
Jan 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’ve been meaning to read this for a while, a lot of this echoes my own childhood and growing up in what can sometimes be described as the abject misery of the Thatcher years. But it wasn’t all bad, there were smiles and laughs, there were friends who made it easier. Granny Mac jumped off the page at me, typical of a woman of her generation and if anything like my own granny she would have had a rough surface sheltering a heart of gold.

And my two takeaways from this...I got school milk up until
Jack (That English Guy who Reads)
It is so rare for you to find a book which reflects so many of your own life experiences. I was totally unprepared for just how much this book would resonate with me.

Regardless of my personal connections, this is wonderful storytelling. Barr's use of a first person perspective to narrate his childhood was unexpected. This helped it to feel less retrospective and more in-the-moment which added a story-like quality to this autobiographical book. Maggie & Me is equal parts heartbreaking,
Couldn't put this one down. I was particularly drawn in by his style, which is beautiful without being showy and serves to make the story he's telling so immediate that you feel you could reach through the page and put your hand on him.
Mark Dickson
A stark and evocative autobiography. The present tense first person narration puts you right into the scene, helped along massively by the decision to have scenes unclouded by the perspective of age; you really feel like you are watching the child experience all of these horrible moments, without the full language to explain it.

As others have mentioned, I don’t think the Thatcher framing really works, and the quotes at the start of each chapter feel forced.
Lou Pollard
Apr 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book as much as coal miners hated Maggie Thatcher. I wanted to snatch mini Damian away from his troubled life and tuck him into bed in an immaculate house under a perfect Laura Ashley duvet cover. Funny, wise and uplifting, Damian Barr's beautifully written memoir captures the harsh reality of Scottish life under the rule of Empress Thatcher. Using long-forgotten quotes from the Iron Lady herself to start each chapter, he vividly brings to life the characters that inhabited his ...more
Warren Dickson
Compelling, challenging and moving. Visit's the early 80's and Thatcherite times with it's many challenges, though this young gay man has many more challenges than most. All written with a sense of worth and at times humour.
Sep 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book - I can only echo what has been written so eloquently by others. I laughed out loud and was amazed at how Damian not only survived his childhood, but excelled. Beautifully told and a must to add to your 'shelf'
Oct 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Without a shred of self pity, Damian Barr tells the story of his appalling childhood in a Housing estate near Glasgow and how it (and Maggie Thatcher) shaped his life. A wonderful read. I couldn't put it down.
Joanne Mclaughlin
Mar 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Amazing and honest. Loved this voice
May 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
Another superb addition to the "growing up gay under Thatcher" genre. Unflinching, yet warm and often hilarious, it's a perfect companion to Winterson's Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?
Martin Allen
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I seem to have a habit of five-starring books. I think I am extremely fortunate, and perhaps a little astute, that I seem to truly bond with the many books I read. This was no exception. And if I could give this book 6 stars, then I would.

I found Maggie & Me in a secondhand bookshop in Hastings which doubles as a Thai restaurant where you can browse, read and buy as you tuck into your spicy cuisine. I picked it up along with Les Enfants Terribles and St Joan of Pevensey! An eclectic mix.

May 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Before reading Maggie and Me, my favourite book this year was Bear Grylls' memoir, featuring two SAS selection procedures and an often oxygen-starved climb of Mount Everest. While Damian Barr comes from a completely different background from Eton-educated, MP's son, Grylls, his life story shares similar elements of survival. Through chapter headings and in the Acknowledgements, Barr gives some of the credit for this to the eponymous Margaret Thatcher. But the chapters themselves reveal that much ...more
Sophie (RedheadReading)
As a memoir, this is very frank and really captures the way we perceive events as a child very well. I would give a warning for very heavy subject matter, especially child abuse.
I don't feel like the framing around Margaret Thatcher was done overly effectively. Each chapter opens with a quotation from her and she is mentioned from time to time, but the closing rally of how she inspired the author to keep pushing through tough times and the way he refers to her as his second mum felt very odd to
Leeanne Graham
Oct 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed it which seems a bizarre statement considering the main story is the physically abusive childhood Damian Barr was subjected to. That being said he depicts it in such a way that you can feel his survival instinct throughout and it spurs the reader on as it must have done him at the time. I grew up a few streets away from Damian and am only a couple of years younger so the depiction of life growing up in Newarthill at the time was so accurate it was like being transported back ...more
Aug 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
The parallels to my life growing up gay in Scotland in the same period are remarkable. Totally different family situation, but so much was familiar...
Fiona Mccormick
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely wonderful book. Heartbreaking yet hilarious at times, this book is a vividly realistic memoir of growing up in North Lanarkshire in the 1980s. My heart broke for Damian as he was separated from his dad then abused by his mum's latest boyfriends, while struggling with being gay in the days of Clause 28. He had to forge his own way through the traumatic teenage years using his wit and intellect, I loved his friendship with Heather and the way he fitted into her family.
This book was
Hilary Mak
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I have enjoyed Damian Barr at 'The Literary Salon' and this was an amazingly honest and moving memoir. What was clearly a difficult childhood and adolescence in 1980s Scotland was reflected on without pity and regret. The power of education, and as he describes it 'the kindness of teachers' shone through and it encourages belief that change, development and growth can occur, even in the toughest of life circumstances. I look forward to his new novel with eager anticipation.
Reza Amiri Praramadhan
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A result of impulsive buying at a book bazaar, at first I was horrified at what I just bought. This is a coming of age memoir of a Scot working class son from a broken home, complete with alcoholism and domestic violence. I was absolutely being put off by the parts in which the author explored his sexuality at the early ages, as a gay in Thatcher’s Britain where that kind of orientation was still being frowned upon and indeed, criminalised. However, as the story progress, I am feeling more ...more
Rosaline Weaver
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Barr’s tone is so completely devoid of bitterness or forgiveness that as he tells of the chaos that was his childhood you are lured into a false sense of security. Perhaps it was all quite fun, having the incredible freedom to roam about the streets whenever and wherever at such a young age. Then an episode of cruelty snaps you into the reality of how horrific it must have been to be so alone and unprotected in such awful circumstances. The episodes of abuse keep coming but this book never feels ...more
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The Readers: YWTB #6 - Damian Barr 2 20 Aug 17, 2013 04:35AM  

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'Maggie & Me' is my memoir and 'You Will Be Safe Here' is my first novel. You can follow me on twitter @damian_barr and insta @mrdamianbarr. I host my own Literary Salon at the Savoy:

'You Will Be Safe Here' is set in South Africa in 1901 and now. It explores legacies of abuse, redemption and the strength of the human spirit - there is always, light even in our very
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“Reading is an act of radical empathy: turning the page instead of turning away.” 4 likes
“Memory implies that there is some static time and place you can go back to, whereas if you relive it by trying to put yourself back in that context, its more nuanced, less black and white. More traumatic, but also more exciting. When I knew I had to write about things that would be painful, I put off doing it for ages. But then eventually the fear of not doing it becomes greater than the fear of doing it.” 1 likes
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