What the Grown-ups Were Doing

Represented by:
Laura Longrigg


Simon & Schuster

Publication date:

Foreign rights controlled by:

A memoir of Hanson’s childhood in 1950s suburbia, which her editor describes as ‘a combination of all the best things about Nigel Slater’s Toast and Lynn Barber’s An Education, with its own original humour’. Michele grew up in Ruislip in northwest London in the 1950s, in the only Jewish family in a well-to-do neighbourhood. Although she only encountered overt anti Semitism once, on holiday in the New Forest, she knew she was different from her Christian friends – her mother constantly warned her of their strange food and nasty bathroom habits. As she entered her teens, Michele began to wonder if the differences between Jews and Christians were quite as extreme as her mother made out. Her parents seemed to be more and more dissatisfied with each other, especially when one of the neighbours announced that she was having an affair – with Michele’s father. No wonder Michele rebelled when she went to art school: it was the early 60s after all and life would never be the same again. What the Grown-ups Were Doing portrays a lost world, a calmer and more innocent time but one in which frustration and prejudice boiled just below the surface.


"Laced with Michele Hanson's characteristic chutzpah and humanity, What the Grown Ups were Doing evokes in compelling detail a claustrophobic but defiant suburban childhood of the 1950s." David Kynaston, author of bestseller Austerity Britain 
"She writes fluently and delightfully about suburban life in the Fifties as if it were yesterday… Beneath the surface, many of the families who seemed averagely dull and conformist were in fact averaging dull and conformist. Some weren’t, as What the Grown-ups Were Doing eloquently and hilariously reveals. Often, it transpires, what the grown-ups were doing were each other." Sunday Telegraph 
"Michele Hanson grew up an 'oddball tomboy disappointment' in a Jewish family in Ruislip in the 1950s - a suburban, Metroland idyll of neat lawns, bridge parties and Martini socials. Yet this shopfront of respectability masked a multitude of anxieties and suspected salacious goings-on… There's already quite a bit of buzz around Michele Hanson's funny, touching memoir that immerses the reader into 1950s society in an exploration of her Jewishness." Stylist 
"Michele Hanson is one of our best comic writers. Deft, delicate and always true to life" Michael Palin 
"More than a tale of any teenager growing up. Hanson’s family is Jewish and the truth and laughter surrounding the Jewishness of her life is what lifts this account to a level of its own…This is a memoir that catches the favour of the times as felt from within… A tender tale of a young Jewish girl growing into an understanding of her noisy, quarrelsome and passionately alive family".Observer 

Other publications by Michele Hanson

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