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Grace Williams Says It Loud

3.40  ·  Rating details ·  1,131 ratings  ·  144 reviews
A startling, first-person debut and a unique, spirit-soaring love story.

This isn't an ordinary love story. But then Grace isn't an ordinary girl.

'Disgusting,' said the nurse.

And when no more could be done, they put her away, aged eleven.

On her first day at the Briar Mental Institute, Grace meets Daniel. He sees a different Grace: someone to share secrets and canoodle with,
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published July 2010 by Hachette Australia
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Average rating 3.40  · 
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 ·  1,131 ratings  ·  144 reviews

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Jan 08, 2012 rated it did not like it
I disliked this book, and that seems a shame to me, because there was such potential in the topic. I am interested in mental health and learning difficulties, and the ways in which we treated and regarded individuals with physical and mental disability in the past. Yet I struggled to read this book. In fact I only finished it because I had spent money on it and I felt I needed to justify it.

I found this book lacked fluency, both in the writer's voice and the overall narrative. I found it diffic
May 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
First Sentence: "When Sarah told me Daniel had died, the cuckoo clock opened and out flew sound, a bird, two figures."

Emma Henderson's debut "Grace Williams Says It Out Loud" is wonderful, compelling and engaging. Written in the voice of Grace Williams, a spastic, "uneducable", polio-stricken, mentally retarded, who speaks in grunts and other unintelligible sounds. However, Grace Williams speaks with words that are poetic and fluid, drawing a juxtaposition of contrasting emotions in me as a read
Jul 03, 2011 rated it did not like it
I picked this up because a reviewer thought it was comparable to Emma Donoghue's Room, in it's, "linguistic, and emotional, resourcefulness."
I totally disagree - I was very disappointed.

I didn't warm to the main characters, or root for them, or even really feel much for them. It had nothing like the emotional punch that it should have had given the subject matter.

Nicola L
Apr 11, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, family-drama
(This review also appears on

I wanted to adore this book, really I did- but I couldn't. I found it such a struggle to get into and nearly gave up on it several times. This book had the potential to be really fantastic, but for me it's distinctly average. After seeing other five star reviews on here, I do have to wonder if maybe I've read a different book from everyone else- but this book just really wasn't my cup of tea at all.

I liked the premise of the novel and in places it is wel
May 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A heartbreaking yet funny novel. I really felt close to the characters and was moved to tears for poor Grace at some points. This really put things in a new perspective for me. Very well written.
Jul 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you want an easy and unchallenging read then this is not for you.
This is an unsentimental account of a child with profound disabilities growing up and coming of age in institutions in the 1950s and 60s, and then finally settling into what is called `supported living'. It also details the impact that her disability has on her family. Grace, the narrator, recounts her story with no holds barred. She doesn't shy from letting us know about the messy practicalities of struggling with bodily functi
May 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is deservedly nominated for the Orange prize. Grace Williams is the most wonderful creation, it was easy to fall in love with her in these pages.

Whilst the two main characters (and many of the minor ones) have severe disabilities, the main message for me was that we are all more alike than we are different.

The saddest fact about Grace's story is that it is so true to life - many people with disabilities were treated terribly in the years that Emma Henderson writes about here. And some sti
Joanne Osborne
A difficult read... a difficult subject told from the prospective of a girl born with a severe disability and parents advised to put her away having spent her first years in a somewhat loving family in the fifties. The mental institutions of the time as we know were not conducive to happy days and caring environments and this story is challenging on that front. The kindness of a few softened the story but I found it confronting ( and thank goodness for the changes in our thinking we have taken o ...more
Jul 30, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011, 2012
I am not a misery lit person: I do not read sad reveal all novels about past miseries although I am often attracted to books set in mental institutions (see also Girl, Interrupted, The Bell Jar, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest etc etc) and a particular type of contemporary fiction that this slots neatly into, making Grace Williams Says it Loud tick several boxes for me.

I'm pointing out my dislike - and, to be quite honest, extreme distaste - for misery lit so that you don't think that this book
What a tough book this was to read. I went through stages of anger, indignation, happiness and also sadness, while reading Grace's story. I imagine it must have been difficult to give shape to the inner world and experiences of the outer world of someone who cannot communicate her feelings and thoughts accurately in either speech or writing. Who really knows how disabled people were (are?) treated? As the above quote demonstrates, the Briar Mental Institute staff does not hold a high opinion of ...more
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Emma Henderson’s book is ambitious, moving and tackles very serious issues about society’s attitude to disabled people.

(I can’t believe this book was compared to Emma Donoghue’s ‘Room’ which I found to be a formulaic ‘beach read’ and boring considering the subject matter!)

My only frustration with the book was in the pacing and style of writing. I found this to be a big problem. The writing is beautiful but somewhat jarring in that events presented from the POV of the main character are shown to
Dan (aka Utterbiblio)

That is the first word that comes to mind with this book. Emma Henderson's writing is superb. Her scatterbrained writing elevates Grace's situation more so. The characterisation is sublime and always on point. Which makes you want to know more about the cast but yet still feel satisfied about who you are spending your time with. For these points alone I could say it was a five star book.

However, the story itself and the pacing of the novel brought it down, for me. It's a heartbreaking
Sep 28, 2010 rated it liked it
I read this book pretty quickly over about two days, not because it was particularly compelling, but because I was afraid that if I put it down, I'd lose sense of the characters and where I was in the narrative. Because the main character, Grace, is a patient in a mental institution, locked inside an uncooperative body, unable to speak more than a few words at a time, branded "uneducable" by the system. The main body of the story spans roughly a decade, from about 1960 to 1970, with a bit of "be ...more
Apr 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: general, fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 28, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: become
This looked like a happy book. "Grace Williams says it loud" looped in bold cursive across the cover, friendly and inviting. But this is not a happy book, and Grace doesn't say it loud - she barely speaks out loud at all.

Grace has an unspecified mental illness which has caused doctors to tell her parents she's a right-off - a spastic, ineducable. Her parents listen, and Grace is institutionalised in 1956 at the age of ten, to grow up in the children's unit at the Briar. It's dismal. Every horrib
Mar 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. The story of Grace, who everyone thinks is mentally deficient but actually enjoys words and stories and is rather perceptive. And her boyfriend, Daniel, the armless story-teller who can fill in the blanks. And Grace's life at home and then at the mental institute. And growing up. And good times and bad. Besides that, there is some wonderful alliteration which I only picked up on when I read bits of the book out loud to my dogs. This is a little ironic seeing as Grace's clumsy tongue m ...more
Aug 20, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2013
A different read. I cannot say that i found it compelling but it is a subject matter not often written about, and it is written from a different perspective. I'd say this is a good read, though nothing to write home about.
May 31, 2011 rated it it was ok
I didn't like this book. I found it depressing. I didn't like the way it was written, chopping and jumping around. I found it hard to follow.
Aug 01, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The Story ~

'Grace Williams Says its Loud' is the story of Grace Henderson, a story which she narrates. Grace was born with severe disabilities which became worse due to Poliomyelitis (Polio). Grace is eventually sent to Briar House where she meets Daniel, a debonair, individualistic boy who suffers from epilepsy and has no arms following a tragic accident. Grace and Daniel are there for the same reason, their health problems, Grace's parents tries desperately to keep Grace at home and care for h
Apr 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
I can't decide between three or four stars for this shortlisted Orange Prize novel. Three for how there were times when I thought focus was lost -- or four for how the book lingered in my mind after completing it.

Emma Henderson's inspiration was her elder sister, who, like the title character, Grace, came to the world in the late 1940s with birth defects, soon exacerbated by polio. By age ten, Grace's parents are persuaded to send her to an institution, the Briar, which, of course, is destined t
Aug 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012

What lifted this book above a four star read was the knowledge that the author's older sister had been consigned to an asylum at a similar age and the experiences described for Grace were based on Ms Henderson's memories of her sister.
On the other hand, I did feel the complicated descriptions of Grace's feelings and thoughts, in all their detail, were a bit unbelievable as having come from someone who was "not just not perfect, but damaged. deficient, mangled in body and mi
Mar 30, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mom-books, sweet-2016
Who'd have thought that I would read two books about institutionalized people who don't speak in a row? You can bet I sure didn't, and I don't think I want to do it again. This book was lame. I can't think of how else to say it. It's heralded as like, compelling and mesmerizing and all those type of ~*adjectives, but it was just boring and, well, lame. I just can't think of another word for it, it's lame. I had no idea what Grace was actually inflicted with, either. I spent literally the whole b ...more
Well it wasn't a comfortable read throughout. Sometimes the hardest stories to read are the ones that need to be told the most.

Grace Williams is introduced to us as a profoundly disabled baby. We hear her voice from a very early age. We see her view of the world, which at times is so cruel & heartfelt, it's difficult to read through each sentence. She lives in a world where it was commonplace for the authorities to pressure parents to institutionalise ineducable children. I found the descriptio
From its opening dedication to the late Clare Henderson, I wondered if Emma Henderson was writing this story from personal experience. When I finished it this afternoon a quick search revealed that indeed her older sister had been institutionalized for decades and here some years after her death Emma was giving her a voice through the vehicle of fiction.

"How many brothers and sisters have you got?"
"Two brothers and two sisters, but one of them doesn’t count."

That’s what I used to say, as a child
Casual Reader
Oct 04, 2011 rated it liked it
Well, it's a difficult subject and hats off to the author for tackling it. I think I really wanted to like it more than I actually did. However, it is extremely well written and I like the feisty character of Grace who the author wants us to believe has an active mind trapped in an inactive body. However, it is a book that only gives a very bleak view of care given to those with profound disabilities. It is a very grim portrayal without giving many redeeming qualities to residential care or nurs ...more
Bernadette Robinson
Jan 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: unusual
This debut novel by Emma Henderson who has drawn on her personal experiences to base the research behind this story is a joy to read. If you're looking for something different that isn't your normal feel good story then this is for you.

The story centres around Grace who lives in the Briar Mental Institution and spans her life from pre-adolescence to womanhood. Life inside the Briar isn't always as it's meant to be but then there's always Daniel. Daniel is also a patient in the Briar, we watch hi
Kirsty Darbyshire
Jun 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle
I was a bit dubious about reading this to start with as it sounds all a bit gimmicky, but actually thought it was fabulous. It's narrated by Grace, who is - I forget the exact details - but born with some kind of mental disability and then gets polio aged six which withers an arm and leg - she's considered to be 'ineducable' and at the age of ten is institutionalised by her family. The author has managed to tell the story of someone who could never tell her own story.

The story is basically all a
Jul 02, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I thought I would like this book more than I did, and whilst reading it I liked the story, but there were so many niggles I had with the way it was written that it put me off and made reading it a chore at times. Firstly, things that are written from a child's perspective always take a little getting used to with the quirky language. This was one of those books. I'd find myself having to reread sentences to make sense of them. Also, the swearing did put me off a bit. I'm not anti-swearing at all ...more
Oct 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Grace Williams,born mentally disabled then after having polio at age six is also physically disabled. Her parents are advised to institutionalize her as she is considered to be ineducable. She is placed in a mental hospital where she meets and falls in love with a fellow patient Daniel. No one understands her words, which come out as grunts, but Daniel always seems to know what she is thinking. The patients are treated very badly by some of the staff,the dentist in particular who thinks they fee ...more
Hannah Wingfield
Jan 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Grace Williams is a novel about the eponymous character who we follow from her girlhood to middle age, whilst she lives in a hospital (and subsequently the community) in the UK in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, with a focus on her teenage years. Grace is an unusual heroine, as she has physical and intellectual disabilities (although I was never entirely convinced of the latter – more on this later) and is part of a section of the population who was shut away from the public (quite literally, as in the ...more
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Emma Henderson went to school in London and studied at Somerville College, Oxford and Yale University. She wrote blurbs for Penguin Books for two years, then spent a decade teaching English in comprehensive schools and further education colleges, before moving to the French Alps where, for six years, she ran a ski and snowboard lodge. She now lives in Derbyshire and is a lecturer in English and Cr ...more

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“Rubella, Talipes, Amsterdam dwarfism, Austism, Asthma, Eczema, Epilepsy - the Sacred Disease. Moth madness, Papa calls it. Said Daniel. The Epilepsy, Papa used to say I was his little papillon de nuit - because of how I fluttered and got the shakes. Butterfly of the night. It suited him.” 2 likes
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