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

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4.20  ·  Rating details ·  1,701 ratings  ·  210 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
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Paperback, 241 pages
Published May 16th 2019 by Chatto & Windus
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Average rating 4.20  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,701 ratings  ·  210 reviews


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Simon
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.
Lauren
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
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Rebecca
(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 in f ...more
Paul
Oct 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-read-2019
If you were to hear Kerry Hudson speak now, you would hear her soft Scottish lilt. She would be telling you about her prize-winning books that have enabled her to travel all over the world. She is in a strong relationship and has plenty of opportunities and has access to many wonderful things.

It could have been so different.

Her score for the childhood trauma on the Adverse Childhood Experiences was eight out of ten. Her mother and step-father had a tumultuous relationship. She moved constantly a
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Kirsty
Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Kerry Hudson was asked to write her memoir, Lowborn: Growing Up, Getting Away and Returning to Britain's Poorest Towns, by her publisher.  She did so even though the idea scared her.  When she received the book deal, she wept, 'because', she says, 'I didn't know how to free myself from the tyranny of silence and the growing shame that came with that voicelessness, because I was terrified of writing this book and also terrified I'd have to live in this pretend sort of way forever if I didn't.'  T ...more
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
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Laura
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 countl
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Stephen
Nov 20, 2019 rated it liked it
I was slightly disappointed with this book - expected more political commentary which there was only a small amount of (passing reference to the effects of Brexit near the end hinted at what could have been). Instead it was more of a life story of the author and I feel that that’s been done better in books like “Educated” and especially “The Glass Castle” which is one of my favourites.
Would have liked to know more about what happened to the author’s mother and it could have benefited from some p
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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.
Janet
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
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Katy
Sep 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a difficult read for me, I found it quite triggering as it bought back bad memories of my own childhood. It really illustrates the lasting scars a bad childhood leaves on the adult survivor and in many ways it never leaves you, but you find a way to rise above it. Very thought provoking.
Flora
Jan 04, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
An interesting read, an important look at crippling poverty in the UK. I felt I read it out of duty rather than enjoyment though.

An interesting read, an important look at crippling poverty in the UK. I felt I read it out of duty rather than enjoyment though.
Jessica
Nov 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
‘I truly understood that it really was no one’s fault. That life is too messy to attribute blame so neatly. How can you blame ill and dysfunctional people living in an ill and dysfunctional society? How could I blame my mum when she was simply struggling herself? How could I blame my father when the stories I knew of his childhood pointed to terrible abandonment and abuse? Or blame my grandmother for just trying to live her life as well as she could though it was full of struggles? There was no ...more
Jenny
Feb 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Verdict: Story (depth of topic and execution) - 5/5
Memorability - 5/5
Enjoyment - 3/5
Writing - 5/5
Overall - 4.5/5

I found this a hard listen, which makes my 'enjoyment' score a little unfair. I don't know whether it's sleep deprivation or simply because I have a little baby myself now, but I felt so deeply sad listening to this. I'm privaledged in life to never have lived or witnessed true poverty. Or at least I grew up blissfully unaware. If you've ever deemed someone a scrounger, layabout or wor
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Wendy
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a heartbreaking chronicle of a gifted child who triumphs against adversarial odds to build a life for herself through strength, talent, and determination. The end--is only the beginning. I highly recommend this book!
Jenny Cooke (Bookish Shenanigans)
Such a moving and important memoir about the effects of poverty in Britain that is so often misunderstood, ridiculed and ignored.
Kirsten
Apr 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is described as a book about the reality of poverty, and I know that's how the author sees it, but I think poverty is only a part of it. Having said that, there is so much poverty in this book and it shows so clearly how insecure accommodation, lack of clothing, inadequate food etc affect every aspect of a family's life.

But for me, the poverty was a minor part of this book. What I saw outstanding all the way through was the effects of generations of ill-health, illness and abusive beha
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Louise Beech
Aug 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely stunning. Hudson writes for all of us who grew up on the fringes, who were in care, who had a distant/mentally ill/drunk/absent/neglectful parent.+
Lily
Sep 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I probably give it more of 4.5 but really opened my eyes
Ioana
Feb 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Lots of book reviewers I follow say that it's difficult to rate memoirs because it's almost like you are rating someone's personal experience. Generally, I just rate my enjoyment of spending time with a book and what effect it had on me. It's an interesting one with 'Lowborn'.

Kerry Hudson's memoir is structured as one past / one present, a chapter today and a chapter reminiscing or visiting place that she has lived in. I like the way it is written, I think it keeps a good balance between the per
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Katedurie50
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I'd read Kerry Hudson's first novel and liked it, but this journey back in memory to her troubled and impoverished childhood and forward visiting amd observing the same places today packs more punch. Aberdeen, Canterbury, Coatbridge, Hetton-in-the-Hole, Great Yarmouth - the sheer disruption is somehow rendered more understandable to the child by the familiarity of its constant features, like the cramped, often barely furnished accommodation. Or Mum's boyfriend, sending for them , then the blazin ...more
Anna Morgenstern
Oct 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Amazing.
Alison
Oct 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I bought this book because I read some of Kerry Hudson’s articles in The Pool and in The Guardian. She’s a fabulous writer, and I recognised in her writing some aspects of my own childhood (that could be me and my sisters on the cover!).
Reading some of the more negative reviews of this book actually shines a light on how those who have no idea of what it’s like to be poor continuously misrepresent and misunderstand poverty. There are plenty of reviews putting the blame resoundingly on Ms Hudson’
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Hannah Wingfield
Jul 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
I am a huge fan of Kerry Hudson's work. Her first novel, Tony Hogan... is one of my favourite books of all time, and the follow-up, Thirst, was great too. Lowborn is her first non-fiction book and it's both a memoir of her childhood/reflection on how far she's come and how differently her life could have turned out; and a journalistic look at some of the UK's most deprived areas. It's an interesting book on a subject that isn't written about enough, and I enjoyed the experience of reading it and ...more
Aisha
Jul 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Now a successful writer, Kerry Hudson is still haunted by her childhood marked by poverty, institutional care and sexual abuse and memory loss due to intense emotional trauma. To confront these ghosts, Kerry travels to all of the cities she remembers growing up in, ranging from Scotland to Newcastle and Liverpool.

It’s an affectingly bleak look at how poverty affects those on the margins of society and keeps them on the margins. We see how the welfare state strips people of their dignity, the ine
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J
Jun 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a really emotional read. Not only in the story of Kerry's life, but also the highlight of poverty in the UK and how it is prevalent and perpetuated today. Despite this, its message felt warm and hopeful.

A stand-out moment for me was in chapter 17, when Kerry returns to one of her old schools and speaks to some of the teachers still working there. They explain what kind of schemes they have in place to assist children from low-income backgrounds, particularly those that were implemented
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George
Nov 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2019
This book reminded me of Darren Garveys 'Poverty Safari' which is definitely high on my list of favourite books. Much like that, this book looked at poverty through a first person real narrative of growing up in that poverty. This book may have been less data focussed but that was replaced with more narrative, giving time a better understand of how it feels to grow up in these two similar ways. I can see myself coming back to this book in a few years time.

Read on many delayed trains.
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.
Heather
Aug 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
A nuanced, honest and well contextualised exploration into the writer's past and into the forgotten towns and villages of the 80s and 90s where the poor were left to struggle. Not many of us could have survived a life like this, and yet so many have to. This book is written with a level of compassion unattainable to many of us; Kerry Hudson is a fantastic author and a true delight.
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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 Award, Sou
...more

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