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A Long Way from Verona

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  1,315 ratings  ·  196 reviews
‘I ought to tell you at the beginning that I am not quite normal having had a violent experience at the age of nine'

Jessica Vye's 'violent experience' colours her schooldays and her reaction to the world around her- a confining world of Order Marks, wartime restrictions, viyella dresses, nicely-restrained essays and dusty tea shops. For Jessica she has been told that she
Paperback, 208 pages
Published November 5th 2013 by Europa Editions (first published 1971)
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Macy Mckay It's a reference to Romeo and Juliet - which is set in Verona. There are references to the play throughout, Jessica is loaned the book whilst she's si…moreIt's a reference to Romeo and Juliet - which is set in Verona. There are references to the play throughout, Jessica is loaned the book whilst she's sick, e.g. and as Rebecca notes, the aged actress in the tearoom refers to the girls as "little Juliets".
The references are all comic though, since wartime Cleveland is a long way both geographically and literally from Verona - and Jessica's infatuation with Christian very quickly over unlike Juliet's undying love for Romeo.(less)

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This book is about Jessica, almost thirteen and living in England. We follow her several months in 1940 and 1941. We see the war as a child saw it then – the bombing, the evacuees and food shortages. The war is the background; the central focus is a preteen coming of age, a budding writer and an avid reader. She makes a great role-model for other young to-be writers. She is strong and determined, but also grapples with right and wrong, her own aspirations and worth.

I particularly liked what this
Diane Barnes
Jul 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was written in 1971, narrated by a 12 going on 13 year old girl in 1940. Guess what? 1940, 1971, or 2018, nothing changes when it comes to navigating school, boys, and family. Humiliations, embarrassment, fear, parents and teachers who just don't get it, it's all the same. Fortunately for us, Jessica Vye is smart and funny, and Jane Gardam's first novel is a lot of fun to read. ...more
Every single time I begin a novel by Jane Gardam, I find myself saying the same thing to myself; "This is exactly the sort of book I like." Within pages of A Long Road from Verona I once again found this idea flitting through my brain. I suppose Gardam will fail me someday, perhaps.

I did read other Goodread reviews before beginning mine. I don't often do that. Here are two things I found by doing so. The novel was written for children! Middle grade children. Well, I'll be! The oblique narrative
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Oh my goodness. I’ve just finished a book that has rocketed to the top of my list, and toppled all the other books nearby. It’s my new Favorite Book of All. And you simply must read it, too. It’s an amazing read, with amazing characters and an amazing little story. It’s very odd, but you’ve probably never heard of it and---even odder---you’ve probably even heard of the author. I just came across it by the unlikeliest of chances. It’s on the 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read list, so somebody e ...more
Apr 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautifully observed portrait of a girl who is declared to be a born writer, living in the north of England during World War Two. No doubt she is to some extent a portrait of the young Jane Gardam.

A book written for teenage children, and full of wisdom. Jessica must learn to cope with everyday difficulties at school and home, but then comes face to face with death and destruction during a bombing raid. Over the course of a year, her life changes as she learns to cope with fear and loss.

This w
Diane S ☔
Dec 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
When she was nine, Jessica Vye was told by an author visiting her school that she WAS AN AUTHOR INDEED." This was after she had run home, gotten everything she had written and caught up with the author before he boarded thetrain. He sent her back that message in the mail, several months later. She of course never forgot it and it shaped her life.

World War ll and the world of ration cards, air raid shelters and gas masks had become part of everyday life in England. Jessica is quirky, she is very
Feb 25, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(4.5 Stars)

This is a really lovely book, a thoroughly engaging coming-of-age story in the style of Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle – maybe with a hint of Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle in the mix for good measure. I read it at the crossover point between 2021 and 2022, making it a delightful way to start the new year with an author I’ve long wanted to try.

First published in 1971, A Long Way from Verona was Jane Gardam’s debut novel – a book the author originally intende
Aug 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Susann by: Nicole F. and Constance
"I don't know if you've noticed but if you want to become one of the English Classics it's a good idea to be up in the top half of the alphabet. There are a tremendous lot of As and Bs and Ds and - down to about H."
Jessica Vye is the English equivalent of Harriet M. Welsh. Smart, blunt, and confident, until she's faced with social situations that she can't quite get a handle on. She's far from perfect, but always true to herself. Gardam's writing is so honest and her characters are so true-to-li
Roger Brunyate
A Writer Beyond All Possible Doubt
I ought to tell you at the beginning that I am not quite normal, having had a violent experience at the age of nine. I will make this clear at once because I have noticed that if things seep out slowly through a book the reader is apt to feel let down or tricked in some way when he eventually gets the point.
What a marvelous opening! Jessica Vye is only twelve or thirteen while she is writing, but it is clear that she has read enough books to have formed firm ide
Claire Fuller
I listened to all of this on a long car journey, and it was really enjoyable (I really liked the narration). I absolutely loved Jessica's voice. She's 13 in 1940 / 41 and looking back first to when she was 9 and met a famous writer. Then we follow her through school where she writes a poem and has various escapades, and is finally disillusioned about the famous writer, but finds her own way. It's charming and sweet, but the story meanders. If you like I Capture the Castle you'll love this.
3.5 s
Oct 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book. It is quirky and lovely. The heroine, Jessica Vye, is believable and interesting, and her life as a writer in wartime England drew me in from the ver first paragraph. There are some good laughs, but also some good ideas, and it never feels like the author is taking the predictable route. OK, so it's a children's book, but I don't let that sort of thing put me off. ...more
Marcus Ward
Jan 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Detailed and curious, this book is really more amazing than four stars. How I got sucked into reading about a 12 year old girl during the war in England would normally be a mystery but the character and writing are so compelling it just happened and now I'm sad the book is over. ...more
Loes Dissel
Jul 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Jane Gardam's first novel, published in 1971. Charming, warm and witty. ...more
The sad thing is that this is my very first Gardam novel. I guess we shall see, but this has left me with a less than ideal first impression. Jessica Vye, our "heroine"/narrator is not likable at all to me. I saw her as pretentious, trying all the while to seem the exact opposite. Not that she is not a good, kind, intelligent person. But she is only eleven to thirteen, trying to operate much like in her early twenties. She states that she can only ever be honest, that she can read what people ar ...more
Dec 28, 2013 rated it really liked it

Written in 1971, “A Long Way from Verona” is Jane Gardam’s first novel (of over 20 novels.) While her audience was intended to be middle school readers, the novel can certainly be appreciated by adults. Jessica Vye, the central character, is a thirteen year old aspiring wrier in a small, coastal English town during World War II. At the age of nine, a visiting author at her otherwise boring, never-anything-happening-out-of-the-ordinary school excites her author’s heart…”to hell with school. Engli
Aug 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-fiction
Good fun. The world through the eyes of a thirteen year old girl living on the north coast of England during WWII. It's a sweet story, often very funny, and full of eccentricities which is what I love about Jane Gardam. It took me a while to figure out the title but that's part of the experience. I don't think this is a children's or a young adult's novel (re other reviewers). I think it was written for adults to remind them of the torture of being in your early teens. Or is that just me? ...more
Rosamund Taylor
Jessica Vye is "a writer beyond all possible doubt" -- or so she is told by an author she meets in her school. This little book captures her early adolescence during the first years of the Second World War. My edition of this book is a Puffin, but later editions were published for adults. I can see why their might be some confusion -- the narrator is 13, and there is nothing overtly adult in content in the novel -- no sex, nudity or swearing -- but the emotions and ideas are very mature and comp ...more
Rachelle Urist
Jul 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
A Long Way From Verona, by Jane Gardam, is a treasure. It’s told from the POV of a 12-13 year old girl, not much younger than Juliet (14) in Romeo & Juliet. The young protagonist, a born writer, as she is told by a published novelist who reads her work, is a feisty, fascinating, and compelling figure who falls in (and quickly out) of love with a boy about her age. He’s handsome, smart and principled, but his ethics allow him to abandon her when they’re in a pinch. She makes her way” back home to ...more
May 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
What a pleasant surprise! Thank you, public library! This was on their new books shelf, but it turns out this is a re-issue of a novel published about 40 years ago. It's about a girl growing up in a town by the North Sea during World War II. She has a very distinct personality and voice, and she begins by telling you that she would have been normal except for something terrible that happened to you, which was that an author told her she is a writer. Plus she said she has the ability to know what ...more
Aug 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
1971. I couldn't put this little book down! Riveting.

The reader is transported to a town near Teesside [NE Yorkshire coast] in about 1940, anyway soon after Britain 'joined' WW II. Since Gardam lived near there when she was about the age of the first-person narrator [13 years old], one assumes she draws somewhat on her own experiences.

The dialog is wonderful - seems to reflect the way schoolgirls talked at that time and place. Sure, there were many words and expressions new to me, but I could st
Oct 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is the first of the very many books(1971)Jane Gardam has written. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I discovered to my surprise on Wikipedia that it is actually a "children's book," stuff I never read. Could have fooled me....it's just a pretty good story very well told.

I am always impressed with the meticulousness of Gardam's prose. First, settings are so well rendered that you feel you are there. Second, and even better, she has a gift for writing dialogue which makes her characters jump o
Mar 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Kind of funny...this book has three things that could make it a difficult read. It takes place in England, which I love, but is filled with slang and sometimes tough to decode vocabulary. Then, not only England, but England during the early 1940s...a time period I really like but it truly adds level of difficulty points to the vocabulary. But the icing on the cake is the third thing: it's written in a stream of consciousness style from the point of view of a 12 year old girl.

So yes, there were
Mij Woodward
Dec 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another delightful romp with Jane Gardam!

This one was a coming-of-age novel. I was transported back to being a 13-year-old with some friends, and then worried along with her as she made her first attempts at being a writer, exposing her creation to the world.

I suspect some fictional autobiography here.

For fans of Jane Gardam, you will find all the things you love about her here: wit, cleverness, sarcasm, poking fun, dry humor, yet also warm and loving. And oh yes, a plot that pulls you in.

Nov 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have had this TBR for so long, it was certainly time I got round to reading it. Why I left it so long I have no idea, it's lovely!! This is such a charming little book. The narrator is a young girl, who is convinced she is a writer. She is a wonderfully eccentric character, full of life, wit and enthusiasm. Hampered by an unimmaginative teacher, war time and the constraits of a curate's chaotic household, Jessica begins to grow and move toward her ultimate goal. Often hilarious, it is a small ...more
Keith Raffel
Jan 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I am a sucker for a book about authors -- even one who is only 13-years-old. A charming yet profound short novel about what makes a writer. They tell me this is a children's book -- could've fooled me. Set during World War II, it must be somewhat autobiographical. The author, Jane Gardam, was born in 1928 and must have been the same age as the main character, ...more
Sonia Gensler
This was considered a historical when it came out in 1971, and 40+ years later it still perfectly captures the passionate insanity of early teenhood. Such a charming and arresting story. I only just finished the book and already I desperately miss Jessica Vye.
Jan 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Jessica Vye is a wonderful 13 year old character, smart, outspoken and an individual. I couldn't put the book down I'd finished. ...more
Mar 05, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Absolutely marvelous writing. Jane Gardam has captured the thoughts and feelings of a pre-teen girl perfectly. Jessica Vye's voice is impeccable, fierce, side-splitting. She brings one's feelings of pre-adolescence crashing back like an out-of-body vision of a lived memory.

First-person narrative can be very tricky, especially from a young person's POV. Often irritatingly precocious, they can quickly become the object of the reader's dislike and scorn. Not Jessica Vye. Her inner monologue is so
"Jessica Vye yearns to become a writer -- but war time, a curate's cramped and chaotic household, and a strict, down-to-earth school are a comically disheartening setting."
~~back cover

I've not been a big reader of school stories and for me this book seemed to fall squarely in that category. Only it also felt amorphous: the party, Christian, the slum excursion, the picture Jessica bought -- I suppose that was the device to draw the reader into Jessica's teenage uncertainty, but it threw me off: I
Jane Gregg
Jan 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a stunning work this is. Backlisted podcast brought me here and by crikey they were right.
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Jane Mary Gardam OBE is a British author of children's and adult fiction. She also reviews for the Spectator and the Telegraph, and writes for BBC radio. She lives in Kent, Wimbledon and Yorkshire. She has won numerous literary awards including the Whitbread Award, twice. She is mother of Tim Gardam, Principal of St Anne's College, Oxford. Jane has been awarded the Heywood Hill Literary Prize for ...more

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“Thank you," he said. "I'm glad you enjoyed it. If there is anyone here this afternoon whom I have convinced that books are meant to be enjoyed, that English is nothing to do with duty, that it has nothing to do with school - with exercises and homework and ticks and crosses - then I am a happy man." He turned away but then he turned back again and he suddenly simply shouted, he bellowed "To hell with school," he cried. "To hell with school. English is what matters. ENGLISH IS LIFE." The Head grabbed him and led him off to her sitting-room for tea, not looking too thrilled, and we were let out and I went flying home.” 2 likes
“On the whole I think poems don't crawl out of dreams. They are knocked out of rocks.” 0 likes
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