> Skip to content

A very special book of short, Proustian pieces on childhood and how the places of our childhood are embedded in us. Winner of the 2014 Duff Cooper Prize Winner of the 2015 Welsh Book of the Year Award Shortlisted for the 2015 James Tait Black Memorial Prize Shortlisted for the 2015 PEN Ackerley prize Longlisted for the 2014 Thwaites Wainwright Prize

Winner of the 2014 Duff Cooper Prize
Winner of the 2015 Welsh Book of the Year Award

Shortlisted for the 2015 James Tait Black Memorial Prize
Shortlisted for the 2015 PEN Ackerley prize
Longlisted for the 2014 Thwaites Wainwright Prize

Let me take you down the thin cobblestoned streets of the Belgian border town of Bouillon. Let me take you down the alleys that lead into its past. To a town peopled with eccentrics, full of charm, menace and wonder. To the days before television, to Marie Bodard’s sweetshop, to the Nazi occupation and unexpected collaborators. To a place where one neighbour murders another over the misfortune of pigs and potatoes. To the hotel where the French poet Verlaine his lover Rimbaud, holed up whilst on the run from family, creditors and the law.


This exquisite meditation on place, time and memory is an illicit peek into other people’s countries, into the spaces they have populated with their memories, and might just make you revisit your own in a new and surprising way.

Reviews

McGuinness is a marvellous writer... On every page there are breathtakingly gorgeous images, similes, metaphors.

John Banville, Observer

McGuinness has written the great book on Belgium and modern memory, or even Belgium and modern being. He takes his place among those singers and painters of the haunted, the melancholy, the diminished, the caricatural, the humdrum.

Michael Hofmann, Guardian

Lyrical and evocative... This is a very Proustian memoir, whose effect will be to drive the reader into contemplation of their own half-forgotten childhood home.

Josh Glancy, Sunday Times

A rich analysis of home and homelessness.

James Wood, London Review of Books

This book had a powerful effect on me... Sometimes hilarious, sometimes freighted with tragedy.

Gillian Tindall, Literary Review

For Patrick McGuinness memories are electrical storms of the mind.

James Carson, Skinny

[McGuinness] is the best advocate for Belgium since Poirot and Tintin... Fascinating, charming, poignant.

Sean O'Brien, Independent

Beautifully paced… Rich and unforced.

Sunday Telegraph

An unusual and striking foray into the past... Powerful universal observations.

Rosie Hopegood, The Skinny

McGuinness’s prose trembles on the edge of poetry, occasionally indeed tipping gently over into it… Spellbinding… Beautifully written.

Wynn Wheldon, Spectator

Lyrical and episodic… A haunting memoir

Good Book Guide

Read More

Formats & editions

  • Paperback

    9780099587033

    April 15, 2015

    Vintage

    208 pages

    RRP $22.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Amazon
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook

    9781448182343

    March 20, 2014

    Vintage Digital

    208 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
    • Amazon Kindle
    • Booktopia
    • eBooks
    • Google Play
    • Kobo