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Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson

Sarah Broadhurst's view...

Longlisted for the 2014 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction.

Peter, beloved son of Rozsi, is gone, assumed dead so Rozsi and her two sisters take in Peter’s wife and child. These wonderful aristocratic Central European ladies, who now reside in London, are a dream to meet. But this is the teenage girl and her mother’s story. I am told there are autobiographical elements to the tale which is full of angst and doubt and lovely, lovely characters. Family secrets, affairs, teenage crushes and that dreaded word cancer cover these pages as our central characters sort out their lives. It is a wonderful book, highly recommended.

If you like Charlotte Mendelson you might also like to read books by Maria Semple, Maggie O'Farrell and Sue Gee.

Who is Sarah Broadhurst


Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2013 Home is a foreign country: they do things differently there. In a tiny flat in West London, sixteen-year-old Marina lives with her emotionally delicate mother, Laura, and three ancient Hungarian relatives. Imprisoned by her family's crushing expectations and their fierce unEnglish pride, by their strange traditions and stranger foods, she knows she must escape. But the place she runs to makes her feel even more of an outsider. At Combe Abbey, a traditional English public school for which her family have sacrificed everything, she realises she has made a terrible mistake. She is the awkward half-foreign girl who doesn't know how to fit in, flirt or even be. And as a semi-Hungarian Londoner, who is she? In the meantime, her mother Laura, an alien in this strange universe, has her own painful secrets to deal with, especially the return of the last man she'd expect back in her life. She isn't noticing that, at Combe Abbey, things are starting to go terribly wrong.


'Charlotte Mendelson is much admired by the cognoscenti and Almost English ought to be a bestseller. The account of a girl from a family of Hungarian aunts, dealing with love and old lechers at a ghastly boarding school in the 1980s, is sheer bliss - pure rueful comedy with endless resourcefulness ... I adore her novels and wish there were many more of them'
Philip Hensher, Spectator

'Mendelson's keen eye for what makes relationships tick has already led to a place on the shortlist for the Women's (formerly Orange) Prize and new novel Almost English is as good as we'd hoped ... This funny, wise and heart-warming 1980s-set novel is perfect summer reading'

'Exotic, magnificent and just a little bit sinister, it is the Hungarian characters who take over this beautifully written novel ... Mendelson's novels inhabit similar territory to those of Maggie O'Farrell, with the same capacity for extreme noticing, the same profound emotional intelligence shaping the characters and driving the narrative. But Mendelson's world is sharper, her sense of the world a little more cynical. Almost English has been longlisted for this year's Booker; it deserves to win for the quality of the writing alone ... Almost English is a delight. Beautifully written, warm, funny and knowing, it manages to seize an entire slice of Europe for itself, a vast empire full of new and interesting questions about how close, and how far apart, all these postwar worlds have made us. Above all, it is written with love. And good food'

'Charlotte Mendelson's fourth novel is a deliciously funny tale of dysfunctional families. The Farkases recall characters from fairy tales or Roald Dahl: an all-female household comprising three pensioners, an abandoned wife and a teenage girl squeezed into a tiny flat in the barely respectable depths of Bayswater . Reading Mendelson's easy, assured prose is like sinking into something soft and velvety'
Telegraph Top 10 Summer Holiday Reads

'Charlotte Mendelson's Man Booker Prize-longlisted novel takes that most English of literary genres - the boarding school comedy - and spices it with exotic ingredients drawn from Hungarian culture ... Almost English is Mendelson's fourth novel - her previous book, When We Were Bad (2007), was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction - and it demonstrates a mastery of narrative craft ... the prose is a pure joy ... And the whole book is sprinkled with handsome Hungarian phrases - Krumplisalata, Hogy vagy, Egyszersmind - like a strudel dusted with sugar. It makes for a deliciously moreish read'
Financial Times

'The Booker longlisted novel is a warm, wry and lively account of teenager Marina ... the humanity in Mendelson's observations and her clever, comic writing make this a sparkling treat'

'Almost English is long-listed for this year's Man Booker Prize, and Charlotte Mendelson writes of the inner monologues and quiet frustrations that plague an all-female, half-Hungarian household trying to fit into society with a wry humour that carries echoes of Zadie Smith and Zoe Heller'

About the Author

Charlotte Mendelson

Charlotte Mendelson was born in London in 1972 and grew up in Oxford. She has written and reviewed for, among other places, the TLS, the Guardian, the Independent on Sunday and the Observer and now works as a publisher. She lives in North London with her family.

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Book Info

Publication date

30th November 1999


Charlotte Mendelson

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