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3.98  ·  Rating details ·  581 ratings  ·  54 reviews
From the suburban disorder of 1980s southern England, 13-year-old Jake watches his world unravel as his father and older brother leave the family home and his mother increasingly finds solace in drink. Even as Jake outwardly shrugs off doubts about his paternity, the question hangs over him like an invisible spectre. A brilliantly structured novel, Glasshopper recreates ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published September 1st 2009 by Myriad Editions (first published January 1st 2009)
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Average rating 3.98  · 
Rating details
 ·  581 ratings  ·  54 reviews

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Shaz Goodwin
Mar 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This story of family life is told in two threads - both told in the first person. The threads alternate between Jake (the middle son) and Mary. Mary’s thread allows us a brief look into her childhood/teens which helps in understanding her descent into alcoholism. We also get to read her perception alongside the similar timeline as Jake’s. This might sound confusing and you may have read other stories that are written this way and not enjoyed them ………………. don’t let that put you off though as the ...more
May 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
From the suburban disorder of 1980s southern England, 13-year-old Jake watches his world unravel as his father and older brother leave the family home and his mother increasingly finds solace in drink. Even as Jake outwardly shrugs off doubts about his paternity, the question hangs over him like an invisible spectre. A brilliantly structured novel, Glasshopper recreates the time and place of two childhoods and two marriages, evoking a poignant sense of home and family. A masterful debut, it ...more
Nov 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Glasshopper is Isabel Ashdown's very first novel and I thouroughly enjoyed every page. Glasshopper won the Observer Best Debut Novels of the Year. Isabel Ashdown lives in West Sussex with her husband who is an carpenter.
The story starts of with young school boy Jake in November 1984. On a Saturday after noon Jake's dad takes Jake to their local pub the Royal Oak. Jake's dad tells the landlord Eric that Jake is fourteen so he can come in the pub with dad. Stu who is Jake's dad's mate brings his
Sharon Peskett
Feb 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Astonishing, thought-provoking, tragic and beautiful. Isabel Ashdown's attention to detail brought memories from my childhood flooding back into my conscious and unconscious mind. Insignificant descriptions of everyday objects, long forgotten, are now firmly planted back in my memory.
Andy Weston
Sep 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I embarked on this book knowing there would be few bright moments in it. It is the coming of age story of a 13 year old boy growing up in a working class family with separate parents and a mother who is an alcoholic set in the 1980s in the London suburbs. Ashdown uses dual narrators in Jake (the boy) and his mother Mary. As often with split time lines in a novel this has a limited effect, as one of the narrators / time lines is stronger than the other (Jake's in this case). Although the episodes ...more
Mar 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a brilliantly described story of a family who learn to cope with the difficulties of living life with an alcoholic. The different ways in which they deal with this give us a fabulous account of family dynamics and the very diverse personalities that exist in our worlds. Jake is a young boy who learns to accommodate his mothers ‘episodes’ and much of the story is about this. I found I enjoyed his story more than Mary’s and really felt for his struggles to survive.
It’s a great plot with a
Apr 02, 2013 rated it liked it
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Apr 11, 2018 rated it liked it
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Annett Jummrich
What was the author thinking when she wrote the last two chapters? It would have been such a good book, but the last two chapters completely ruined the story for me. What a let-down! Feels almost like the author just stopped writing instead of coming up with a suitable ending. I don't mind open endings, but this was just ridiculous. I'd give it 2.5 stars.
David Highton
A family saga and first novel, with alternating chapters in the first person from Mary 1957 through to 1985, and her middle son Jake in 1984-85 as turns fourteen. A well written book with a twist in the tail
Jan 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Jake is a child that stays with you. His desperate love for his mother and irrepressible zest for're left rooting for him long after you've closed the book.
Martha Cronin
Aug 07, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 Stars
Jun 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
“I love November. I love the frosty grass that pokes up between the paving slabs, and the smoke that puffs out of your nostrils like dragon’s breath. I love the ready-made ice rink that freezes underneath the broken guttering in the school playground. And I love the salt ‘n’ vinegar heat inside a noisy pub, when everyone outside is walking about under hats and gloves with dripping red noses.”

That opening paragraph captures Glasshopper perfectly. A coastal town in early eighties seen through
Feb 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult, 2012, kindle
Evocative of time and place.

This was an excellent read, not least because I could relate to the time and place. I was born at around the same time as Mary and went to school in Portsmouth. I remember the street parties celebrating the Queen's Jubilee in 1977 and they are still a strong memory of my university days.

Jake's story is narrated, along with his mother, Mary, on two time frames, both in first person. As we become familiar with Jake's family life, we see, not only the effects of his
Feb 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Two narrators - Mary, an alcoholic, and her second son, Jake - share the telling of this story about family secrets, some of which are more buried than others. Jake, especially, is a wonderful character: with his love of Greek mythology; his work at the corner shop and relationship with its owner; how he tries to fill the parental role in the family when his father moves out; and, perhaps most importantly, how he tries to rationalise events in his family's life. His story is nicely ...more
Cleopatra  Pullen
Nov 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book has been billed as a coming of age story, it is, but it is also so much more. The story is split between the 1980's where Jake, a 13 year old boy is coming to terms with his father and eldest brother leaving home along with caring for his younger brother due to his mother's absence through alcoholism. His mother, Mary, story alternates with Jake's. Mary starts writing as a teenage girl in the 1950's. The story explores the nature of family bonds, some good,some bad.

I would have given
Sep 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Wow, what a debut! I picked this book up from a charity shop just on a whim and I'm so pleased I did. Written from two perspectives (a young boy and his mother) over two time frames, this book made me laugh and cry. At times my heart broke for Jake and I felt I wanted to reach through the pages and give him a hug. However, there are one or two unanswered questions that have kept me puzzled - who is the girl that keeps appearing to Mary? I have made my own assumption but that along with another ...more
Joanne Mcneill
Jul 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book... This is the second Isabel Ashdown book I've read over theist few wks and it was an absolutely unputdownable book... It was pleasing to note that both George and Jake were born the same day as myself 17/05/1971 which in itself was funny, it also meant that a lot of the records, bands, memories mentioned resonated with myself...
The way the book was laid out was a winner from the beginning although I have a few unanswered questions, which I will email Isabel about and discuss with
Sep 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
So enjoyed this novel set over 2 generations. A large part of the story is told through the eyes of 14 year old Jake, and through his observations I found myself transported back to childhood - his description of the whites between the toes, the sweaty legs on the car seats, there is so much that evokes the memories of the senses from childhood.
It is a story that is sad, funny and very realisitic in attempting to portray the many imperfections of family life. At the end, not all of the strands
Sep 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. It took me a few chapters to get into the way it had been written; Jake telling his story at a particular date and then Mary (his mum) telling her story at a different date.

It was so easy to read and I could barely stand to put it down. I really enjoyed this book and felt sad, elated, sad, elated and sad again so many times. As I was a similar age to Jake at the time he was telling his story all the references brought memories back to me of the 80's
Dec 23, 2012 rated it liked it
This was a surprising read, and I think I expected more out of it. Torn between Jake and Mary, the book takes us on a journey in the 1930s England set in a fast pace. it was an interesting read, though the story line didn't appear clear. Yes, there are touching moments in the story that stir quite a few emotions, but I did miss clean motives for the characters. All in all, an average read for me and definitely not on my recommending list.
Mar 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written and very touching. The characters stay with you days after finishing the book. It's the first book I've read that made me want to discuss it with others who'd read it as I felt there was a lot left unsaid. being one for liking everything tied up neatly this left me slightly frustrated and eager to know others' views on it. That's actually how I found this site. Would definitely recommend though personally I'd have liked some of the inferences padded out a bit more.
Aug 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Great book :) towards the end it really picked up. I liked the whole thing apart from maybe the very end but thats because it wasn't a totally happy ending.

I love the way it swapped from jake to mary so you could see two sides in the family. Nit sure why there was an older brother matthew though as he only gets mentioned a bit :(

All in all a great story though and i can't wait to read more from this author
Dec 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Isabel Ashdow has such a talent for setting the scene & filling it with characters that leap out & touch your heart. Bursting with bitter sweet nostalgia, making it hard to put down.
Having already read Hurry Up & Wait- I'm looking forward to reading her next work when it's published this summer!
Catherine Alice
Jul 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I am a massive fan of Isabel Ashdown! I've never come across an author who can so accurately capture a child's perspective. Glasshopper perfectly displayed a mixture of ordinary life and the troubling upbringing of Jake. The ending was so sudden and unexpected that I didn't know what had hit me. I would strongly recommend!
Aug 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
It took me a while to warm to this book, but once I had, it was compulsive reading. I was born in 1957 and could relate totally to some of the "narrow minded" views portrayed in the book. Overall, it's a very well written depiction of the struggles of family life in the 70's and 80's. Each character is well defined and you feel that you can empathise with them. Well worth reading.
Harriet Springbett
Aug 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Ashdown's writing is beautiful, authentic and simple - yet there is suspense in the way she approaches each detail. Her voices are strong and carry the rhythms of spoken dialogue. You get a real feeling of the teenage angst Jake goes through. I love her writing and look forward to reading her other books.
Mar 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
A beautifully written story about a boy called Jake growing up against a background of distrust and his mothers memories of the 1980’s. Jake struggles to cope with an alcoholic mother yet its cleverly written to allow the reader to see Mary’s mood swings as she descends further along the road of alcoholism. I wanted to whisk Jake away from the world he knew,keep him safe.
Catherine Kearney
Aug 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Living with an alcoholic parent in the mid 80's - fiction drawn with historical detail and sympathetic characters.

Set aside time to read right through - I couldn't put it down!

Jakey is a skilfully created character so adult in some scenes but still a child in others conflicted by broken homelife and care for his troubled mother
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Dark, compelling and beautifully twisty ... have you read Isabel yet? In 2018, BEAUTIFUL LIARS shot to #3 in Amazon UK's Hot New Psychological Thriller Releases, while LITTLE SISTER was shortlisted in the 2018 Dead Good Reader Awards. Her next novel is LAKE CHILD, a dark and haunting thriller set in a remote valley town in the heart of Norway's ancient fjords (out September 2019).

Isabel Ashdown
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