Cover image for The hiding place
The hiding place
Azzopardi, Trezza.
Personal Author:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Atlantic Monthly Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
282 pages ; 22 cm
Geographic Term:
Format :


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X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf

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Set in a Maltese immigrant community in Cardiff Wales, The Hiding Place is the story of Frankie Gauci, his wife Mary, their six daughters, and about Frankie's betrayal, gambling away his family's livelihood and eventually the family itself. A young British novelist bursts onto the international literary scene with this iridescent first novel.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In Cardiff, Wales, in the 1960s, a young girl comes of age as her family and their luck disintegrate. Dolores is the last born in a family of five girls. Her father, Frankie, is part owner of a cafe, but he is a gambler who bets his share of the cafeand the family home in one evening's card game. The novel moves back and forth in time, at one point to before Dolores' birth to describe how her mother and father meet and try to mesh their hopes into reality. As their early luck slides downward, the mother, Mary, goes mentally downhill as well. Meanwhile, Frankie looks to his daughters to change his life by "giving" one daughter away to a wealthy mafioso and pushing another into marriage with a much older, also wealthy, widower. Given the family background, there may be some comparison to Frank McCourt's memoir, Angela's Ashes (1996), but Azzopardi's debut novel stands on its own as a testament to learning to survive childhood when parents are not up to the job and you're among the down-and-out. --Marlene Chamberlain

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

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.]DEleanor J. Bader, Brooklyn, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.