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Once Upon a Time in England

Helen Walsh

Average Review Rating Average Rating 9/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Canongate Books

Published : 2008

Copyright : Helen Walsh 2008

ISBN-10 : HB 1-84195-868-9
ISBN-13 : HB 978-1-84195-868-2

Publisher's Write-Up

It's the coldest night of 1975. A young man with shock-red hair tears through the snowbound streets of Warrington's toughest housing estate. He is Robbie Fitzgerald, and he is running for his life - and that of his young family. In his heart, Robbie knows the odds are stacked against them. In this unbending northern town, he has married the beautiful brown nurse who once stitched up his wounds. Susheela is his Tamil princess, but in the real world the Fitzgeralds have to face up to prejudice, poverty, and naked hatred from their neighbours. Now Robbie has seen a way out, and he's sprinting to his date with destiny. This night starts a chain of events that will reverberate throughout this family - Robbie, Susheela, their son Vincent and unborn daughter, Ellie. Across two decades of struggle, aspiration, achievement, misunderstandings, near-misses and shattered dreams, Helen Walsh plunges us into their lives and loves. She shows herself to be a brilliant chronicler of our people and of our times. And in the Fitzgeralds, she has created a family who will stay in your heart, long after the final page.

Helen Walsh was born in Warrington, England, in 1977. Her first novel, Brass, was published in 2004 and was the winner of a Betty Trask Prize. She now lives in Liverpool. Praise for Helen Walsh and Brass:

'The most striking coming-of-age story that I have read for a long time.'


'A novel whose imagery you won't easily scrub off the back of your mind. It is spellbinding and utterly unique.'


'Walsh has a gift for creating character through voice.'

The Times

'An incredibly uplifting experience... She will knock you sideways..'

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Jessica (080309) Rating (9/10)

Review by Jessica
Rating 9/10
Robbie is running through the streets of a tough housing estate in a Northern town. You immediately wonder and want to know is someone after him and if so, why?

Is Robbie's life in danger? The reason is the backbone and ultimately the destiny of this plot. It leads the reader through rough, tough areas, past chemical works, the canal and run down houses where amongst everyday life smack-heads ply their trade. Into the clubs where the heart of this community socialise and drink together in a fug of fumes and solidarity.

Robbie and his Tamil wife Susheela and later on their son Vincent and daughter Ellie, face all the prejudice and hate which abounded in those long ago times in the Seventies. They face poverty and nothing ever seems to go as you hope for them. Throughout two decades the family struggle in their separate ways to cope with a life where everything that can possibly go wrong and prevent them moving towards a happier existence, happens.
Broken dreams, despair and struggles grind them down and lead to a poignant ending.

I thought the title and cover of this book was excellent. Once Upon a Time in England could and did indeed happen in England but more than once.
When you begin this novel it becomes impossible to put it down and you will never forget these raw passionate characters who will live with you for a very long time.

Helen's amazing use of imagery and her insight and imagination plus her grasp of the way people behaved and lived during those times puts her in a league of her own. She has written a unique and incredibly moving saga. I can't wait for her next one. This novel is simply outstanding.
Jessica (8th March 2009)

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