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Paperback / ISBN-13: 9781472284853

Price: £10.99

ON SALE: 13th April 2023

Genre: Biography & True Stories / Memoirs

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‘Vivid and compelling and so moving… Kit’s depiction of her parents’ dynamic is both painful and comforting to read’ Marian Keyes
From the award-winning author of MY NAME IS LEON comes a childhood memoir set to become a classic: stinging, warm-hearted, and true.

Kit de Waal grew up in a household of opposites and extremes. Her haphazard mother rarely cooked, forbade Christmas and birthdays, worked as a cleaner, nurse and childminder sometimes all at once and believed the world would end in 1975. Meanwhile, her father stuffed barrels full of goodies for his relatives in the Caribbean, cooked elaborate meals on a whim and splurged money they didn’t have on cars, suits and shoes fit for a prince. Both of her parents were waiting for paradise. It never came.

Caught between three worlds, Irish, Caribbean and British in 1960s Birmingham, Kit and her brothers and sisters knew all the words to the best songs, caught sticklebacks in jam jars and braved hunger and hellfire until they could all escape.

WITHOUT WARNING AND ONLY SOMETIMES is a story of an extraordinary childhood and how a girl who grew up in house where the Bible was the only book on offer went on to discover a love of reading that inspires her to this day


An astonishingly good evocation of the dream and reality of migration to postwar Birmingham
Intelligent, angry and sometimes very funny
I loved it and couldn't put it down. Both joyous and heartbreaking, it captures an era and is also a beautiful tribute to sibling love, and a completely compelling story of how one girl became a reader
Cathy Rentzenbrink
A window into an extraordinary childhood, told with blistering wit, pathos and joy, I could not have loved this more. Kit takes you on a thrilling ride traversing her past filled with humour, faith, joy and dysfunction. I defy you not to lake it into your heart
Abi Morgan
I couldn't put this book down. Beautifully written and searingly honest. Eye-opening, funny and moving - the words fly off the page. I didn't want this book to end Kit de Waal is a natural born storyteller
Paul McVeigh
Kit's writing is beautiful - vivid and compelling, and so moving. Families are such a mix of joy and pain and Kit's depiction of her parents' dynamic was both painful and comforting to read. There's so much love, warmth and hope. I wanted to keep reading this book for ever
Marian Keyes
Warm, honest, perceptive and moving, and the very best kind of memoir, because not only does it tell you about someone else's life, it tells you about your own
Joanna Cannon
I adored this book. The beauty of its prose, the poetry of its imagery. It's open-hearted, frank, funny, and wise. Unflinching but unpitying. I've returned to most sections twice and several a few more than that. It's a memoir filled with warmth, joy and heartbreak, written with the immediacy of a thriller and the poignancy of a love letter. It is a love letter - to a brave, curious, funny girl I now feel like I've known all my life
Séamas O'Reilly
Touching and authentic - I loved this memoir
Clare Mackintosh
I knew Kit de Waal was special the moment I met her. And now I know why
Lemn Sissay
A beautifully written and unsentimental account of growing up Black and Irish in Birmingham at a time when neither were particularly welcome. Inspiring, unflinching and courageous
Liz Nugent
Extraordinary . . . De Waal has a gift for the deft detail that will bring a story or character alive . . . A moving, heart-warming account of a girl who grows up in a house with no books except the Bible, gets in with a bad crowd and nearly goes under. In the end, and after she has left home, she is saved by books. When she can't sleep she reads the classics. Now she may even have written one
Sunday Times
A terrific evocation of her family life in 1960s Birmingham
Financial Times
In the end, this is a survivor's story. It doesn't pull any punches, but it ends with a girl determined to live, to "turn the page and keep reading"
This is a sometimes bleak, often funny tale of finding a way to live through reading, which is all the more amazing given the only book in Kit's house was the Bible
Radio Times, Book of the Week
A delightful and harrowing book. I can't think of another since Edmund Gosse's Father and Son that gives such a well-written child's-eye view of an upbringing in a suffocating Christian sect . . . I highly recommend
Irish Times
Dynamic and immersive, Kit de Waal's effervescent memoir documents a fraught childhood of opposites and conflicting identities with wit, humanity and an uncanny power for bringing the figures of her youth to vibrant life.
Maggie O'Farrell