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The Hiding Place

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My father has stopped for now, although, like most of the other Maltese, he won't settle in the city— he can't escape the salt-scent of the docks.

Tiger Bay, Cardiff, 1948. Frank Gauci steps off the Callisto into the coldest winter ever, clutching a cardboard suitcase. It's all he has, until he finds a ruby ring, Joe Medora, and Mary.

When Frankie and his best friend Salvatore open the doors of the Moonlight Café, life seems good: downstairs ...

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Overview

My father has stopped for now, although, like most of the other Maltese, he won't settle in the city— he can't escape the salt-scent of the docks.

Tiger Bay, Cardiff, 1948. Frank Gauci steps off the Callisto into the coldest winter ever, clutching a cardboard suitcase. It's all he has, until he finds a ruby ring, Joe Medora, and Mary.

When Frankie and his best friend Salvatore open the doors of the Moonlight Café, life seems good: downstairs there is sweet music, hot food, beautiful girls: and upstairs, there is gambling. Stick or Twist. It's Frankie's call. But luck becomes a stranger to Frankie. With a mass of debts, five daughters, and another child on the way, he turns to the card table one last time. He gambles, and he prays: this time, it has to be a boy.

It's a boy! cries Salvatore. Bambino, Frankie! And, my father, who is Frankie Bambina to his friends, poor unlucky Frank to have so many daughters, twists in reckless joy...

And so begins the chain of events which will haunt his family for forty years.

Through the eyes of Dolores, the Gaucis' youngest child, Trezza Azzopardi reveals a world rarely seen in fiction—the Cardiff underworld of the sixties. In prose that is sensitive and utterly compelling we discover the cafés and bars, the crumbling estates, the gaming rooms—and the secrets that destroy a family.

About the Author:
Trezza Azzopardi was born in Cardiff and live in Norwich. The Hiding Place is her first novel.

Nominated for the 2000 Booker Prize.

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Editorial Reviews

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A finalist for Britain's prestigious Booker Prize, The Hiding Place -- Welsh novelist Trezza Azzopardi's brilliantly lyrical tale of an immigrant family in the harbor town of Cardiff, Wales -- is turning the heads of readers and publishers around the world, moving some critics to compare it to Frank McCourt's bleak, stirring memoir Angela's Ashes. But The Hiding Place need not "hide" behind any ready-made comparisons; Azzopardi's astonishing, tension-filled debut stands assuredly on its own as a work of tremendous power and originality.

The Hiding Place is narrated by Dolores, the youngest of six daughters born to a Maltese immigrant father and a Welsh mother. With one hand permanently disfigured by a fire when she was only one month old -- the hand is beautifully described by the author as "a closed white tulip standing in the rain; a cutoff creamy marble in the shape of a Saint; a church candle with its tears flowing down the bulb of wrist" -- Dolores has always been treated as an outcast. Her father, Frankie Gauci, is an incorrigible gambler who bets "more than he can afford to lose." On the day Dolores is born, he loses his half-share of a café, as well as the apartment above it where his family lives. Everything in Frankie's life is potential currency, including his family; he even sells his second-oldest daughter Marina to gangster Joe Medora in exchange for a house and money to pay off his debts. Dolores's mother, Mary, is driven to the edge of insanity as she watches the world around her collapse, helpless to save even her children from her husband's vices.

At times, The Hiding Place paints a phantasmagoric portrait of cruelty, but Trezza Azzopardi's gracefully exacting prose saves her tale from becoming a shock-fest of the sort you would expect on daytime television talk shows. Azzopardi forges profundity through delicately interwoven double-sided images: rabbits that are the children's playthings, until they are brutally slaughtered by their father; trunks, rooms, and cages that can either protect or ensnare; and most abundantly and most significantly, fire, which can warm as well as ravage. Even Dolores's older sister Fran is sent away to a home for being a pyromaniac, craving risk like her father, "gambling on how hot, how high, on how long she can bear it."

While some readers may wonder how Dolores is able to relate events that happened when she was so young, it is easy to associate these stories with the phantom pains she feels in her missing fingers, her ability to "miss something [she] never knew." The story comes to us in a dreamlike tapestry, weaving together different times and perspectives. Consequently, the narrative is fragmented, leaving the reader with half-tellings, missing details, stories that unfold only in the retelling, and a sense that the only fact we can be certain of is the profound meaning she imparts through them. The Hiding Place is as much a portrait of a family's destruction as it is an exploration of how memory bends and buckles under the weight of ruin, and how "blame can be twisted like a flame in draught; it will burn and burn."

Maria Coder
Reading Trezza Azzopardi's The Hiding Place is like rummaging through a box of old photographs and reliving the lives in each one. Set in a Maltese immigrant community in 1960s Cardiff, Wales, The Hiding Place chronicles the lives of the Gauci family through the eyes of Dolores, the youngest child. The novel takes a raw look at life on the docks for a family whose children struggle to stay afloat in the harshest of realities. Their mother barters sex to the rent collector, their father gives away one daughter to pay off a debt and marries off another in a brutal plan to better his own life. The Hiding Place offers some beautiful writing as it describes a family and the relationships it weaves.
Realbooks.com
Mark Rozzo
In Trezza Azzopardi's reckoning, the question of regaining or relinquishing the past becomes bracketed by the harder truth that you can't really do either; it's a powerful shade of gray, one that dominates this grimly lyrical tale of a splintered family.
Los Angeles Times
Evening Standard
The Hiding Place is...as moving as any of the fashionably popular memoirs of childhood suffering, by Frank McCourt, Andrea Ashworth and others, but with the structure and suspense of a good novel.
Guardian
Full of neat but unobtrusive gestures at the horrors beneath....[it is] sharply written, full of crisp little vignettes and cameos. A genuine, if hugely warped, family chronicle.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Frank McCourt and Mary Karr may have written definitive accounts of grim childhoods, but British first novelist Azzopardi can stand on her own as a writer of remarkable sensibility and literary prowess. A seedy dockside community in 1960s Wales is the apt setting for this memoir-like narrative. Physical and emotional abuse haunts every detail in Azzopardi's account of a poor Maltese immigrant family's misery. Dolores, the youngest of the six Gauci daughters, narrates the story of her father Frankie's arrival in Tiger Bay, Wales, his marriage to young waitress Mary Jessop, the birth of their children and the family's eventual disintegration as a result of Frankie's gambling and jealousy. In Part One, Dolores's five-year-old narration is emotionless as she relates the awful events that shape their lives. Hers is the perfect voice to unearth the family's confusing and shady secrets; because the child doesn't quite understand the emotional impact of situations, she questions and observes with detachment. On the day Dolores is born, Frankie gambles away their house and caf . When she is just a month old, Dolores loses her left hand in a fire. Frankie's jealousy and gambling debts lead him to sell one of his daughters, Marina, to gangster Joe Medora, the man he believes is her father. Azzopardi chills the blood with gruesome details as Frankie skins Dolores's pet rabbit for older sister Celesta's wedding dinner. Eventually, Frankie abandons the family to join Medora, and Mary, losing her grip on reality, also loses the remaining children to public care. Dolores's stoic perspective continues into adulthood, as, in Part Two, the sisters return to Tiger Bay for Mary's funeral. Although the narrative line can confuse as the story shifts from present to past, readers will be riveted by this brilliant psychological prose poem of a family united only in helplessness and despair, in a poverty-stricken corner of the world rarely evoked in fiction. (Jan.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Over the last quarter century, child abuse and neglect have become important themes in fiction and memoir. Indeed, as writer after writer mines this territory, the intersection between early experience and adult development is better understood. But what of memory? What do writers make of the fact that some incidents remain in our mind's eye while others are forgotten? Azzopardi's elegant and auspicious first novel tackles these and related questions: how does abuse affect different people differently, how do relationships between siblings color events, and how does a person's outsider status influence behaviors and options? The story is narrated by Dolores Gauci, the youngest child of Maltese immigrant Frankie and Wales native Mary. Her life, like that of her parents and five sisters, is limited by poverty, by the tragedy of there having been too many children in too short a time. Feelings of worthlessness, of being an afterthought in a world teeming with sorrow and violence, are abundant. But because Azzopardi's writing is unsentimental, even the cynical and skeptical will find themselves moved by the Gauci family's heartbreaking saga. Highly recommended for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/00.]--Eleanor J. Bader, Brooklyn, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Michiko Kakutani
[A] harrowing and remarkably self-assured first novel...has instead written an elliptical novel that possesses all the immediacy and emotional power of a memoir...
New York Times
Kirkus Reviews
Azzopardi brings the immigrant and poverty-stricken underbelly of Cardiff, Wales, during the 1960s to disturbing life as a young child bears witness to the gradual disintegration of her troubled family. Dolores"Dol" Gauci is one of six daughters of Frankie Gauci, a Maltese immigrant, and his Welsh wife Mary. A charming but unlucky gambler, Frankie loses his money, his home, and his share in the Moonlight Café the night Dolores is born. Months later the infant Dol loses most of her left hand in a house fire while her mother is attempting to seduce the rent collector out of his money. For what he sees as the good of the family, Frankie barters away one of Dol's older sisters, who may or may not be Frankie's daughter. Out of misguided protectiveness, he gives another in marriage to an older, wealthier man. And he beats a third sister, the elusive Fran, and later sends her to the"home" when she's accused of pyromania. Fran's story, though never clear or complete, is the heart of the novel: she is the one who carries the family's guilt and vulnerability on her shoulders. Frankie, who, for all his sins, tries repeatedly to be a husband and father, finally abandons the family. Mary, less than stable to begin with, has a mental breakdown, and the remaining daughters are dispersed to foster care. The unrelenting darkness of these events is bearable only because Dol's knowledge is more sensory than factual. She tells her story in fragments, which take time to evolve into a meaningful pattern, but gradually the individual Gaucis, their Maltese gangster associates, and their working-class Welsh neighbors come to life through a child's perceptions: slightly tilted, incomplete,yetremarkably perceptive. Like the gritty world they inhabit, Azzopardi's characters command a ragged, sharp-edged dignity in this haunting debut.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780871138156
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/13/2000
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.78 (w) x 8.58 (h) x 1.07 (d)

Read an Excerpt

The Hiding Place


By Trezza Azzopardi

Grove Atlantic, Inc.

Copyright © 2000 Trezza Azzopardi
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8021-3859-4


Chapter One

Six-to-four the field, six-to-one bar!

Shouting the odds, the TV and my father, low down on the living room floor.

C'mon, baby! he yells, beating his flank with his fist. With the betting slip in his teeth, he gallops down the last furlong of the rug, to the home straight of the lino. Words bolt from the side of his mouth: Yankee Piggott Photo-finish. I don't understand any of it: I think my father's English leaves a lot to be desired.

He curses: Jesus Christ.

At the end of the race, his face is very flushed, an inch from the set. He's watching the lines and dots as if Barney's Boy will suddenly leap through the screen. Ripping pink shreds of paper from his mouth, my father tears up his slip and spits the remains on the rug. Then he starts in on the Sporting Life, holding it out in front of him, rending it between his fists until he's tearing air. I know at these moments that he would tear me too, for the slightest thing, and I crawl ever so slowly behind the couch, until he's put on his donkey jacket and slammed the back door.

He isn't just like this about horses. My father will gamble on anything that moves. He won't do Bingo or fruit machines or snow on Christmas Day, but horses and pontoon and poker and dogs. My father's love isChance. Look at that roulette wheel! Bet red, bet black, bet red, bet black. If he could place his bet Under Starter's Orders he would still change his mind over every fence. The Form makes no difference, the words don't make sense, and the odds at Joe Coral have no bearing on his stake.

He has always been this way, according to my mother. She made her own bet on him, in November 1948, in the church of St Mark's, in a white lace gown.

* * *

This is what happens just before I am born: it's 1960. My parents, Frankie and Mary, have five beautiful daughters, and a half-share in a cafe overlooking Cardiff docks. Salvatore Capanone, my father's oldest friend, owns the other half. The sailors on shore leave pour in through the red door to eat, and find a girl. My family lives above the cafe. They have two rooms; one long one, divided into bedroom and lounge by a thick toile curtain depicting scenes of the French aristocracy, and an airless back room which they call The Pit, because you have to climb down into it. My sisters inhabit The Pit, and my father has put a gate up in the doorway to stop Luca, who's only two years old, from climbing up the steps and falling down again. Luca swings her fat leg over the gate whenever my mother isn't looking, and falls from that instead.

There is a third room, one more flight up. It has a square wooden table covered with worn green felt, and four vinyl-backed chairs stacked one upon the other. In the far corner is a window where a blind conceals the day. My mother never goes into this room; it's not hers to use.

There is no kitchen. Every morning my mother trudges downstairs to the cafe to fetch food for my sisters to eat, which they do, sitting in a long line on the couch and watching the Test Card on the television in the corner, while she moves her washing from surface to surface, doing her impression of someone who is tidy. My father's old sea chest is the only storage space, filled with baby clothes. I'll be wearing them soon. My mother knows this, but she doesn't want to air the clothes because my father doesn't. Also, she's determined that I'm a boy this time, and so a lot of the shawls and bonnets and little woollen coats will be redundant, being mainly pink.

Celesta, who's eleven going on forty, is helping to get Marina and Rose ready for school. They look like two turnips in their cream-coloured balaclava hats, and Celesta doesn't want to be seen with them. She wears a straw boater with a chocolate-brown ribbon, bought for when she goes to Our Lady's Convent School. She won't start there until next term, by which time the boater will have a distinctly weathered look, but at the moment she wears it all the time, even in bed. Fran has just begun at primary school. She draws angry pictures of bonfires using three crayons at a time. My mother pays no attention to this, having to deal with Luca now, and the prospect of me later.

When the other children leave, my mother squashes Luca into her hip and goes downstairs to the cafe. She unbolts the front door, slipping off the heavy chain which swings against the wood, and paces the narrow aisle between the tables. At the furthest end, where the daylight doesn't stretch, are two booths and a long counter. Close to its brass lip sit a single smeared tumbler and a half-empty bottle of Advocaat. The air is sweetish here. A sleeveless Peggy Lee is propped against the gramophone in the corner - Salvatore has had a late night.

My mother eases Luca into her high chair, and as soon as she is down, with the rush of cold around her thigh, she screams. She won't stop until she has something sticky on bread, or until my father comes back from the market and swings her in his arms. Luca can't understand why she isn't allowed to practise running. Salvatore used to let her, when my mother had to go and fetch Fran, or hunt the Bookies for my father.

Frankie and Salvatore are a strange brace. My father is smooth and lean, well cut in his well-cut suit. His partner is softer, larger, with milky hands and brimming eyes. Every morning Salvatore puts a clean white handkerchief in the pocket of his apron to deal with the tears which will flow through the day. He blames the heat of the kitchen, rather than his childless wife or the plaintive tones of Mario Lanza. The air is full of music when Salvatore cooks. He plays Dino and Sammy, endless Sinatra, and his favourite, Louis Prima, who reminds him of somewhere not quite like home. The records are stacked in the plate rack on top of the counter, the plates haphazardly stowed beneath. Salvatore glides through the days and nights, dusting flour into the grooves of Julie London, wiping her clean with his napkin. And then he wipes his eyes.

There is a delicate division of labour in this business. Salvatore is a better cook than Frankie, for whom the flames of the kitchen are too much like his vision of Hell. So while Salvatore cuts his fingers, brands the soft flesh of his forearm on the searing stove, and sings and cries, Frankie wears his suit and does things with money upstairs. But Salvatore likes it this way, he gets to see people.

* * *

At first, convinced that it would tempt the passers-by, Salvatore made stews and bread and almond cakes dusted with sugar. He wedged the red door open with a bar stool, wafting the smell of baking out into the street with his tea-towel. He wrote a sign, DELICIOUS FOOD, in a careful hand, and tied it with parcel string around the rusted frame of the awning outside. But Mack the Knife spilt out on to the pavement, upsetting the barber shop owner next door, the sign ran in the rain, and soon Salvatore brought the stool back to the bar. The pigeons in the yard grew fat on unbought food.

Never mind, said my mother. It takes time.

Now he cooks for the sailors, who want egg and chips or bacon in starchy white rolls, and the cafe is busy. Sailors bring in girls, and girls attract trade. Salvatore fries everything in the flat black pan on the stove, his thinning hair stuck to his head with steam. The combed strands come unglued throughout the day, falling one by one in lank array over his left ear. He pretends to be a widower so that the night girls will pity him. In fact he is married to Carlotta, who is respectable, and will not enter The Port of Call, our cafe. Or as Carlotta calls it in her broken English, That Den-o-Sin.

* * *

Salvatore loves my mother and my father and my sisters. He is part of the family. And he will love me too, when I am born. Until then, he has to make do with Luca, who shrieks from her high chair the moment my mother's back is turned. Salvatore watches from a safe distance as Luca's arms jolt up and down in an urgent plea to be lifted. He would free her, but he daren't. The last time he did, she ran like a river to the end of the cafe and caught her head on the edge of a table. She stared at it, astonished, while her forehead bulged and split. The knock held her silent for two days, so silent, my mother thought she was damaged: it was the only time Luca was quiet.

Now when my mother has to go out, she traps Luca in The Pit with soft toys to keep her happy for the five minutes she thinks she will be away. Luca throws them at the furthest wall, screaming like a bomb.

In search of my father, my mother is blunt and shaming. She no longer has the time to be discreet.

Have you seen Frankie? Len the Bookie? In The Bute, are they? Righto.

She tracks down her husband, to the arcade, the coffee house, the back room of the pub. When she finds him, she is vocal. My father complains.

This is business, Mary. Keep out of it.

The other men look down and grin into their shirts. And when my father does return, my mother points to Luca's head.

That's down to you, that is.

Sufficiently shamed, or just tired of losing. Frankie starts a clean sheet. He stops betting; he has finished with it for good. But when my mother tells him about me (at six months the evidence is mounting), he takes the money he's accumulated through not gambling and opens a card school in the top room of the cafe. He wins, and wins. And suddenly I am luck personified.

We'll call him Fortuno, he says, rubbing my mother's stomach as if she's harbouring the Golden Egg. My mother has other ideas.

* * *

In the top room, all four chairs are occupied. There is a haze of cheroots, a sweat of onions, the stink of eggs in oil. My father has staked everything on the winning of the game. Away in the infirmary, I'm wailing at the midwife as Frankie decides to Twist. My mother is straining with the labour of prayer. Over and over.

Oh God, let it be a boy.

When the midwife pulls me out, she conceals me. I am shunted from scales to blanket to anteroom. She closes the door on my mother.

If you have to tell her anything, tell her it's a boy, says the midwife to the nurse.

Salvatore's wife Carlotta, waiting in the corridor with her big black handbag poised on the bulge of her stomach, catches just this one phrase - tell her it's a boy - and makes a phone-call to the cafe.

Salvatore is watching the card game from the doorway upstairs, peeping through the curtain of beads which hangs from the lintel. They cascade from his shoulders like Madonna tears. He doesn't hear the telephone; his mind is in anguish for the game he's not allowed to play. His eyes are fixed on the Brylcreem glint which crowns my father's head. Salvatore's right hand rests stiff across his heart, his left holds a spatula, which oozes slow drips on to the red linoleum floor. He should be downstairs making greasy meals for the thin night girls, but Salvatore cannot concentrate on bacon and eggs when his business is at stake.

* * *

Salvatore likes his partner Frankie, even though he's lazy and not always dependable, and he adores the night girls downstairs. The young ones perch on the stools, their bouffant heads nodding in time to the music on the gramophone; they are stiff-lacquered, clean-scented. The older ones smile, now and then flinging an arm across the booths to display their latest Solitaires. Or they sit in silence. They draw their wet fingers round the rim of their glasses, in an effort to make the last rum last.

Rita, Sophia, Gina. Salvatore recites the girls' names in his sing-song voice. These women are really Irene and Lizzie and Pat. They close around the green metal ashtrays, depressing the buttons with their jewelled hands, watching the debris swirl into the hidden bowl below. When they do leave, the imprints of their bored thighs remain a while upon the shiny leatherette. They never say thank you and they never look back. Salvatore always forgives them. He wipes his hands down the breast of his apron, and sings through the night, while Frankie gambles in the room above his head.

* * *

Tonight, Salvatore wants to watch. Here we have my father, the giant Martineau, Ilya the Pole, and crooked Joe Medora. This pack of men is busy.

Sal ... telephone, says Joe, not looking up.

Salvatore rolls reluctantly downstairs.

Joe Medora wears a slouch hat, a silk scarf anchored at the neck, a Savile Row suit. He's an archetypal villain who makes sure he looks the part. He angles his cigar into the side of his lipless mouth, staring over his Hand. He's seen all the films; no gesture is wasted. He is patient.

It's my father's move. Jack of Hearts, Five of Clubs, Four - winking - Diamonds.

It's a boy! cries Salvatore, beating back upstairs. Bambino, Frankie!

And my father, who is Frankie Bambina to his friends, poor unlucky Frank to have so many daughters, Twists in reckless joy, and loses the cafe, the shoebox under the floorboards full with big money, his own father's ruby ring, and my mother's white lace gown, to Joe Medora.

At least I have a son, he thinks, as he rolls the ring across the worn green felt.

* * *

My father stands above my cot with a clenched fist and a stiff smile. He rubs his left hand along the lining of his pocket, feeling the absence of his father s ring and the nakedness of losing.

At the end of the ward, Salvatore's face appears in the porthole of the swing door. Carlotta's face fills the other, and for a moment they stare separately at the rows and rows of beds and cots. Carlotta lets out a shout, Mary! Frankie!, and sweeps towards my parents. Salvatore raises his hand in salute, but takes his time, pausing to exchange greetings with the other mothers.

A fine baby, Missus!

What a beauty! Boy or girl?

Twins? How lucky!

There aren't enough babies in the ward for Salvatore, perhaps not in the world. He bends over each one with his big smile and his hands clasped at his back.

Carlotta spreads herself on the chair next to my mother's bed and rummages deep into her bag. She makes small talk, not trusting herself to mention me, or the cafe, or the future. My father stabs his teeth with a broken matchstick he's found in the other pocket of his trousers, and sucks air, and says nothing. No one looks at me. Then Salvatore approaches the foot of my mother's bed and opens his arms wide to embrace my father. Both men lean into each other, quietly choking. Carlotta produces a dented red box from her bag, prises off the lid, and offers my mother a chocolate.

Please have one, Mary.

Continues...


Excerpted from The Hiding Place by Trezza Azzopardi Copyright © 2000 by Trezza Azzopardi. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 29, 2010

    This is a startling revelation about abusive behavior on all levels which sheds a light on all kinds of unequal justice as well. If such things coexist, it has to make one wonder if someone is watching over us.

    This is an amazingly powerful novel about a struggling working class family in Cardiff, Wales. It begins in the early 60's and travels to the end of the nineties using the various horrifying revelations in the memory of Dolores, the youngest sibling in a family of six daughters, to move the tale forward.
    Poverty, immorality, superstition, mental illness and illiteracy set the stage for abuse, neglect, dysfunction and deprivation that defies the imagination. Each successive memory is progre...more This is an amazingly powerful novel about a struggling working class family in Cardiff, Wales. It begins in the early 60's and travels to the end of the nineties using the various horrifying revelations in the memory of Dolores, the youngest sibling in a family of six daughters, to move the tale forward.
    Poverty, immorality, superstition, mental illness and illiteracy set the stage for abuse, neglect, dysfunction and deprivation that defies the imagination. Each successive memory is progressively worse than the one preceding it.
    This book will have a profound effect on the reader. This is not a book one will easily forget as it exposes the wounded family with all of its fatal flaws; the children and the parents are all scarred by something. There is physical abuse, human trafficking in which a child is bartered into slavery, another sent to foster care, another beaten brutally, another permanently injured in tragic circumstances, all tortured by each other in one way or another, as well as by society. Even those that escape the environment bear the marks and damage of memories they try to suppress.
    The depths to which some will sink in order to survive, for purely selfish reasons, will astound the reader. The inability of others to live and/or fulfill their natural family obligations, as they are thwarted by life's haphazard circumstances, will pain the reader. They cannot find a way out of their circumstances so their dreams and/enormous obligations remain unfulfilled. Their stories will keep one turning pages.
    Ignorance and superstition stifled and destroyed many lives. This book opens a window onto their suffering. If you read it, you will not be sorry, although you will surely be extremely saddened to learn of the hopelessness that existed for these characters at so many stages of their lives.
    The one part of the book that disturbed me deeply, was that the kindest, often unjustly, suffered the most, while the guilty often escaped punishment, although their actions caused monumental suffering for others. Perhaps that is true to life, unfortunately; the guilty often do get away unscathed leaving a trail of misery in their wake.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2005

    Wow- completely different from anything else I've ever read

    This novel was excellent. I don't even know how to explain its depth. Although at the beginning it was a little harder to keep tabs on what was going on, the second half of the novel had me on edge. It has the right amount of ambiguity to leave one wondering, and it captures vivid enough pictures of poverty and family destructiveness that even readers that know little of these conditions will find it easy to commiserate with the characters. One feels as if he or she is in the very shoes of Dolores, confused and surprised by the secret revelations that the family kept under wraps.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2001

    A dazzling literary maiden voyage

    Still reading it, I love the authentic tang of it, even though it's foreign to me in many ways. As a first novel, I found it extraordinarily incisive, powerful, and a lot of other praiseful adjectives I don't have at my command. I can't wait to see how it ends.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2001

    First Time Novelist Hits Gold

    The novel begins with our narrator, the adult Dolores, telling us about a moment in her childhood when she was 5 looking out of the upstairs window watching for her father to return home from the betting shop. She is supposed to warn her mother when she sees him so that Mary can shepherd her friend and neighbor Eva out the back door. It will not be until the very end of the novel that we learn the special significance of these moments of watching. And it is only then that we will learn the significance of the title. The novel tells a harrowing tale of about 5 years in the life of a Welsh-Maltese family, the Gauci's. The voice of the narrator is obviously an adult's voice but much of the novel is written in the first person tense of a 5 year old. The author is playing tricks here with tense and voice that we will not understand completely until Part Two of the novel. Obviously a 5 year old cannot fashion such lush prose, but we will see that the 5 year old doesn't have to when her older counterpart can reminisce. But the tricks and traps of memory are one of the prime undercurrents in the novel that can be missed due to the compelling narrative flow. Azzopardi cuts back and forth in time creating the illusion of a past that is as present as it is gone. It takes an especially sensitive voice to tell this story of dispair and heartbreak without falling into sentimentality. Azzopardi never gets sentimental and in fact, manages to find moments of sly humor. Never at the expense of her characters, but she finds humor in the way that Shakespeare found a way to say some his profoundest thoughts in his comedies. You would think that with 6 children, a mother and father, a friend and neighbors, enough characters populate this novel. But we are not overwhelmed by the proliferation of characters because each one if given special, if brief, attention. Eva is personified by her ocelot coat. The Jackson woman across the street by her disapproving stare. It is a technique used brilliantly by D.H. Lawrence in his book of short stories, 'Twilight in Italy'. The narrative drive is compelling and this is a book that you want to read and keep reading. You are transported into a world that is tough but so beautifully rendered you do not want to leave it. Part of sheer joy of reading this novel is the glorious writing. One can find evidence of a fresh perspective on metaphor and image on almost every page. While this novel is not for the faint of heart, nor for the casual reader, it does us the great service of trusting us. Pay careful attention to the details and read the book in as few sittings as possible because you will miss too much if you try to dip into this book at bedtime. Details are important and while the story can be appreciated on many levels, including as a family mystery, its full resonance will only come with careful attention. A remarkable novel made all the more remarkable by its being a first novel. Such assurance and subtly is usually the mark of a more experienced writer. I eagerly await the next one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2001

    hard scrable life make a poigant memoir memoir

    when the author depicts her life from the perpective of the day she was born the reader knows right from the beginning this is no tale featuring winnie the pooh.indeed most of tessa apozardis first novel make frank mccourt childhood seem happy.the narrator is he youngest daughter of a abusive gambling father and a depressed mother. evev the other siblings in this debut novel are creul.all the poverty aside the reader keeps turning page after page hoping agaainst hope that dolores will overcome the seemingly overwhelming odds .in the second half of the novel when the charactos return for their mothers funeral we are hoping for redemption for dolores aand her sisters.however this is not acinderrella story so the most we can expect is to some insight into another human beings life.after all isnt that what we are seeking to gain through literature and in that the author doesnt dissapoint.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2001

    A TRENCHANT, SUPERBLY CRAFTED DEBUT

    British first-time novelist Trezza Azzopardi stuns with her accomplished portrait of childhood deprivation, a terrain where want goes begging and kindness is stillborn. With a rundown immigrant enclave in Cardiff, Wales, as its setting, The Hiding Place is the story of the Gauci family. Father Frankie, whose 'love is Chance' is a Maltese seaman. A selfish, unrepentant child abuser and thief, he values an inherited ruby ring more than his daughters whom he barters for a stake. His wife, Mary, the mother of six girls, is sometimes forced to sell herself for rent money. Madness is her escape from an intolerable existence. Related in the voice of the youngest child, Dolores, the saga of this family causes readers to ponder the vagaries of birth and life's inequities. As adults, each daughter is haunted by a painful past, days in which their diversions were hopscotch in a dusty alley or inflicting cruelty upon one another until they are relegated to foster care. Ms. Azzopardi's evocation of the littered byways and musty bars of a small dockside community is flawless, as are her portraits of those we meet there. A finalist for the coveted Booker Prize, The Hiding Place is a trenchant, superbly crafted tragedy. It is a bleak but dazzling book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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