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This exceptional novel about family, love, and the innocence and terror of childhood is the only debut work to be short-listed for England's prestigious 2000 Booker Prize and has caused an absolute sensation, garnering eleven leading publishers around the world. Set in a Maltese immigrant community in Cardiff, Wales, in the 1960s and peopled with sharp-edged, luminously drawn characters, The Hiding Place is the story of Frankie Gauci, his wife, Mary, and their six daughters. It chronicles in graceful language Frankie's unforgivable betrayal: gambling away his family's livelihood and eventually the family itself. Called "astonishing and iridescent" by the London Times, The Hiding Place is a mesmerizing exploration of how family, like fire, can shift suddenly from something that provides light and warmth to a dangerous conflagration, sparing no one in its path. The Gaucis' story is seen through the eyes of Dolores, the youngest daughter and, in her father's estimation, the embodiment of bad luck, condemned to bear the mark of a family that is rapidly singeing at the edges. With a lyricism that belies the horrors she so often recounts ("children burnt and children bartered: someone must be to blame"), Dolores presents an unsparing portrayal of the fear and hopelessness of childhood amid grim poverty and neglect, of children growing up without safety nets and on sunken foundations. The Hiding Place conjures the coarse sensuality of life among the docks, the smoky cafés and bars, the crumbling homes and gambling rooms of Tiger Bay. Sustained by a tightrope tension and combining the stark, youthful wisdom and the uncanny, perfect pitch of Susan Minot's Monkeys with the redemptive liveliness of the downtrodden in Angela's Ashes, The Hiding Place is a breathtaking, radiant debut.
The narrator of this novel, set in an English village, is known by many names. To her father she is Patsy; to her grandfather she is Lillian; to her lover she is Beauty; and later, as a clairvoyant on the stage, she is known as Winifred Foy. Through a long series of losses, abandonments, and betrayals, one identity flows into another. The narrator is an outsider, living among outsiders. Throughout her troubled life she holds onto memories of the people who mattered to her and clings to slivers of hope.
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