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Lowborn: Growing Up, Getting Away and Returning to Britain’s Poorest Towns

4.43  ·  Rating details ·  236 ratings  ·  41 reviews
What does it really mean to be poor in Britain today? A prizewinning novelist revisits her childhood and some of the country's most deprived towns

'When every day of your life you have been told you have nothing of value to offer, that you are worth nothing to society, can you ever escape that sense of being ‘lowborn’ no matter how far you’ve come?’

Kerry Hudson is proudly
Paperback, 336 pages
Published May 16th 2019 by Chatto & Windus
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4.43  · 
Rating details
 ·  236 ratings  ·  41 reviews

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Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I don’t feel I can put into words how brilliant and important (a cliche I know, but true) this memoir is. Kerry goes back to the places of her youth where she grew up in poverty and looks into her memories, how they’ve shaped her (even in trauma) and how those places are now and the people in a similar situation. It’s frank, unflinching and thought provoking. I want everyone to read it.
May 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is such a beautiful book and I hope Kerry is going to get all of the recognition she deserves for opening herself up like this. I've known for a while how sick I am of middle-class stories and "problems" and I hope this book will shock the publishing industry into really grasping what it already sort-of knows; that we need MORE WORKING CLASS STORIES. Beautifully and simply told through the here-and-now Kerry, looking back on who she was and how that affects her as an adult. I had to ration ...more
Anya Bramich
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-reads
This is truly amazing. I can’t believe that someone could write such an utterly miserable story - a story of their own incredibly difficult life growing up in extreme poverty and neglect - and create something that is so rich, so engaging and so warm.

This is Hudson’s memoir of growing up with a single mother, an erratic wider family, an absent father, some cruel step-father figures against a backdrop of frightening council estates and small, grey, towns.

The book takes the reader through her ea
Stephen Baird
Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I first heard Kerry talk at a Vintage Roadshow at Forum Books, Corbridge before Christmas, this didn’t put me off though ;) and I was really fascinated by the concept of Lowborn.

Earlier this year I went to another Vintage Roadshow and was pleased to be able to pick up an advance copy of this.

It didn’t disappoint. It had me in tears, angry, upset, sad, but also laughing a lot due to the humour that came through.

It’s taken me a while (and a second reading, well worth it) to get my thoughts togethe
Jun 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I came across this book purely by chance whilst browsing Audible looking for something non-fiction. I hadn't heard of the author or the book before. I love books about social history, but generally those I read are from the 1930s or earlier so I decided to try something that happened within living memory - my living memory. Kerry was born in 1980, the year in which I turned 14.

This remarkable, brutally honest memoir starts in 1980 when the author, Kerry Hudson, was born in Aberdeen to a mother w
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Bettie, Wanda
From BBC radio 4 - Book of the week:
What does it really mean to be poor in Britain today? Kerry Hudson explores her own childhood, growing up in grinding poverty, and some of Britain's most deprived towns.

Kerry is an award winning novelist, with a love of travel, art, music and culture. Yet her life was not always like this, as she spent most of her childhood living through poverty with a single mother who was always on the move. Living in any flat or B&B they could afford, Kerry attended co
Jun 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, bio-memoir
A raw and honest memoir in which Hudson, who was raised in abject poverty by a single mother in the north of England and Scotland, shares her innermost life experiences with the reader. She very eloquently (including some wry humor) describes what her life was like and the shame she felt, especially at school where she was bullied for being poor and living in council housing. As an adult, being haunted by her past experiences, she decided to go back to where she came from and find answers, hope, ...more
Harry McDonald
May 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love stories that document their own construction.

About half of Lowborn is Kerry Hudson's attempts to write it; visiting the places she grew up in so that she can see what has changed and what hasn't. The other half is her memories of growing up in a series of council flats, houses and B&Bs up and down England and Scotland from birth to leaving for London at 18.

I hate describing books as important but this one is. It's not a polemic, but it is angry. Hudson lets the statistics and anecdote
Joanne Monaghan
Jun 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely superb.
Claire O'Sullivan
May 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely outstanding. Rekindled so many memories. I couldn’t get it out of my mind and woke up at 4am to finish it and to have a little cry. Highly recommended.
(2.5) Nowadays novelist Kerry Hudson passes for middle class, but she can’t forget the sort of situations she came from: a family history of mental illness, a single mother who got falling-down drunk, foster care, frequent moves between cheap B&Bs and homeless shelters across Scotland and England, pawn shops and government handouts, bullying and sexual assaults. In 2018 she returned to all the places she’d lived as a child to see if they were the same. For the most part, they were. “I stood ...more
B. Andersen
Jun 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Lowborn is a memoir of a young woman born into poverty, the origin of which is explored. Hudson uses her unique voice to take us back in time to see the places she grew up through a child’s eyes, then returns to the present as she revisits those places as an adult. The alternating views between past and present gave the book its powerful force.

Readers in the United States may have read Heartland by Sarah Smarsh. Many of the things Smarsh identified as the genesis of poverty were at work in Hudso
Michael Jarvie
Jun 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Not having read Kerry Hudson’s two earlier books (“Tony Hogan” and “Thirst”) this memoir represents my introduction to her writing, so I’m not in any way qualified to pronounce on whether this work is a re-hash of “Tony Hogan” as one reviewer has suggested.

All in all I found “Lowborn” an engrossing and, at times, moving account. Given that my father’s family originate in Scotland I could relate to that specific background, as I could to the North East locations – North Shields and Hetton-le-Hol
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's not that often we get memoirs of people who lived in poverty in recent years, mostly because there's few who eventually get out of it to be able to write and be published. Hudson's story resonated so much with my own memories of my working class childhood, although mine was no where near as traumatic or disrupted as hers. She lived in two towns in the north east among many others across the UK, both places where I had family in or near. It made me remember how cruel children were when they ...more
Rosie Vaughan
Jun 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Woah this book was amazing- definitely one of the best non-fiction books I’ve read in ages. I hope anyone who believes that poverty is an individual failing rather than a political and social one reads this. Kerry Hudson absolutely captured the ways in which trauma, addiction and poverty is passed through the generations within families, and how difficult it is for that cycle to be broken. She makes the political personal in the most captivating and sensitive way. Whilst she has climbed the soci ...more
Lucy Cowans
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I spotted this book at Waterloo station on a journey to revisit my own birthplace in the east end on London (somewhere that unlike the towns of Kerry’s childhood has been developed into something unrecognisable from the poor, slightly shameful addresses to a place that people flock to). It is a fabulously honest and unflinching portrayal of what it’s like to grow up facing hardship. It was refreshing to hear an author speak so frankly about the negatives they have faced and inspiring to hear tha ...more
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobooks
A harrowing but ultimately hopeful autobiography about growing up in poverty and deprivation. The story is told beautifully by Kerry (she reads the audio version and has a gentle Scottish accent which adds to the authenticity of the story). I felt deeply moved by the cold, hunger and desperate desire to be loved, valued and encouraged. The power of good teachers and good schools (Hetton le Hole, the final BTEC experience) was as heartwarming as the damage done by bullying and neglect in poor sch ...more
Jun 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
A powerful and affecting book. Kerry Hudson writes with compassion about the (for some) unimaginable reality of poverty for so many. I didn’t have anything like the same childhood as described here, but there was still much that was recognisable, as I’m sure there would be for a lot of working class readers. Underpinning every word is Hudson’s strength, her humanity and her determination to understand how poverty affected her, as well as how it still affects far too many people.
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Everyone should read this book. An honest, clearly written insight in to generational poverty and its devastating effects, which reach in to every level of society. The final chapter is a rallying cry to every one of us to stand against the injustice and prejudice which keeps people downtrodden and believing they deserve no better. Everyone deserves a decent life - we have to remember that, above all else.
May 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Full of unique yet relatable reflections on a life lived. Moving between tears and laughter every page it reminded me so much of my own life and the tragedy of the class divide. The layout of the book worked really well... Moving between the past and her journey back to those places as research for the book. A really special memoir and a must read for anyone with an interest in class (and what it means to be human). Buy it immediately!
May 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An inspiring book. It is so well-written and with such substance that I couldn’t get enough of it and wish it were double the length. Devastating, heart-warming, revealing, uplifting, it combines so many opposites yet brings them all together in a cohesive whole. It made me laugh and cry and rage and hope. Should be compulsory reading for politicians and policy makers. Also for memoir writers and social justice commentators. I just can’t praise it enough. All I will add is - read this book.
Sian Lile-Pastore
Jun 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Super glad i read this - and definitely one to read if you live in the uk. This is a memoir about growing up in poverty and how that effects the rest of your life. Understand that Kerry doesn't have to share everything - but would have liked to know more about her relationship with her mother, they are no longer in touch and I was interested in why.
Nadia Henderson
Jun 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful memoir, beautifully read by the author for the audiobook. The travelogue style of the book made me feel as though I was going on a journey with the writer as she flits seamlessly between locations and times to paint a picture not only of her own past but of poverty in the UK as a whole.
Nichole Beauchamp
Jun 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I first came across Kerry Hudson on Twitter, where I appreciated her humour, warmth and perspective. This book is courageous and unflinching in what it tackles - neglect, abuse, poverty - yet does so with the same humour and warmth. A tale of more than surviving. Going to investigate everything else she's written!
Rosy Webb
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
I had just read Kerry’s “Tony Hogan bought me an ice cream float before he stole my ma” and that was a mistake. Lowborn seems like a rehashed repeat of everything I’d only just read and only made it 50% through before giving up. Lowborn is probably a better and more thoughtful book about her experiences and maybe in a few years I’ll try reading it again.
Jun 03, 2019 rated it liked it
I really wanted to like this book but I found it very lacking and repetitive. I felt the writer was holding back a lot and only gave very, very minor details. It lacked the rawness a good memoir needs to make it great.
Heidi Gardner
May 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a book I will likely never read again - it has made my heart clench up to the extent that I’m about to email the author. Incredible, important, and should be thrust into the hands of the entirety of the Conservative party.
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Such a heartfelt story told in a way that makes you understand the grief, loneliness and sadness of the author's early life, but also helps you see how it has framed her existence. Enjoyable is hard to say with such a topic, but a great read.
Amanda Davis
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
I was expecting a bit more about what it was like growing up in poverty generally. I did enjoy the book but it was only Kerry’s story. I would have preferred her story growing up and then the revisit story rather than the forward and back chapters. Very brave though.
Miss Loves Grammar
Jun 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Brutal, honest and compelling! Such an eye-opening glimpse into a journey of self discovery and societal abandonment. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn about the social transformation found in great teaching amidst life's hardships!
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Kerry Hudson was born in Aberdeen. Growing up in a succession of council estates, B&Bs and caravan parks provided her with a keen eye for idiosyncratic behaviour, material for life, and a love of travel.

Her first novel, TONY HOGAN BOUGHT ME AN ICE-CREAM FLOAT BEFORE HE STOLE MY MA, was published by Chatto & Windus in Summer 2012. It has since been shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Aw