Christopher Hart

Grim OOP North

Caligula

By Allan Massie

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EVER SINCE WINIFRED Holtby’s South Riding, novels about clever Northern lasses getting an education and bettering themselves in the world have virtually established a genre of their own. Those like myself, who are the children of the ones who got away, read these stories with a kind of impatience. It’s always Grim Oop North, with Mam drudging away, Dad getting drunk and Our Billy going down the mines or into the factories, clinging on to the socialist dream of a better life when not shagging the local girls senseless after beer and skittles. Actually, my Dad’s life in Bishop Auckland was nothing like this, and neither, I bet, were those of thousands of other clever and enterprising Northerners. Yet from Hilary Mantel and Margaret Drabble to Catherine Cookson and Edwina Currie, novels depicting life in York, Manchester or Liverpool seem to follow this template.

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