We Had It So Good by Linda Grant - review by Michèle Roberts

Michèle Roberts

An American In Oxford

We Had It So Good

By

Virago Press 352pp £17.99 order from our bookshop
 

Linda Grant’s big new novel at first seems straightforwardly modelled as a life story, tracking its protagonist, Stephen, from childhood into old age.

Grant traces a story that arches in time across the twentieth century into the twenty-first, zigzagging geographically between the United States and the United Kingdom. But what initially appears to be a sophisticated take on the family saga mutates into a sober meditation on political and personal identity and change. The novel’s trajectory arcs from idealism to cynicism, from love to violence. 

The opening chapter invokes the family photograph album, a father looking at pictures and telling his children the tales connected to them. Stephen remembers himself aged nine:

standing outside the fur depot where his father works, his sturdy legs in shorts planted on Californian ground. Feet wide

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