> Skip to content
  • Published: 15 January 2011
  • ISBN: 9780099507833
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $22.99

Waking Up in Toytown

A Memoir




The sequel to the award-winning A Lie About My Father.

In the early 80s, after a decade of drug abuse and borderline mental illness, John Burnside resolved to escape his addictive personality and find calm in a 'Surbiton of the mind'. But the suburbs are not quite as normal as he had imagined and, as he relapses into chaos, he encounters a homicidal office worker who is obsessed with Alfred Hitchcock and Petula Clark, an old lover, with whom he reprises a troubled, masochistic relationship and, finally, the seemingly flesh-and-blood embodiemnts of all his private phantoms.

The sequel to his haunting, celebrated account of a troubled childhood, Waking Up in Toytown is unsettling, touching, oddly romantic and unflinchingly honest.

  • Published: 15 January 2011
  • ISBN: 9780099507833
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $22.99

About the author

John Burnside

John Burnside is amongst the most acclaimed writers of his generation. His novels, short stories, poetry and memoirs have won numerous awards, including the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the Whitbread Poetry Award, the Encore Award and the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year. In 2011 he became only the second person to win both the Forward and T. S. Eliot Prizes for poetry for the same book, Black Cat Bone. In 2015 he was a judge for the Man Booker Prize. He is a Professor in the School of English at St Andrews University.

Also by John Burnside

See all

Praise for Waking Up in Toytown

Burnside is an utterly original author

Harry Eyres, Financial Times

Beautifully written and observed memoir ... an affecting book from a writer of manifest talent; a compellingly readable memoir possessed of a genuine spiritual and intellectual depth

Adam O'Riordan, Sunday Telegraph

The precision and beauty of his language is like a proof of his achievement... a kind of higher sanity

Aida Eiderman, Guardian

[One of the] most lucid and poetic of memoirs

Jane Shilling, Daily Telegraph

Burnside may not find himself convincing, but this complex, considered piece of work certainly is

Doug Johnstone, Independent

There is no truer writer than John Burnside...[A] searching enquiry into a life: bruised, filled with grace and as plangent and haunting as any plainsong

Catherine Lockerbie, Scotsman

Hauntingly written ... a gripping, often humours account of the world of the functioning alcoholic ... stunningly exact prose

Bee Wilson, Sunday Times

A brilliant portrait of isolation... This sophisticated study of the human mind argues for our right "to continue in the pursuit of whole-heartedness. To be not-normal after all"

Fiona Sampson, Independent

Beautifully written and observed... He writes about squalor and desperation with precision and beauty

The Week

Burnside's memoir deserves to become a classic. Has anyone written about the direct experience of mental illness with such scrupulous observation and wit?

Daily Express

Disturbing, powerful memoir

Sunday Times

One of the best memoirs I've read for ages

William Leith, Spectator

[Burnside has a] poetic eye for language and image...[a] non-judgemental, ultimately redemptive search for some sort of meaning among the shifting sands of madness and sanity

Claire Allfree, Metro

This is an extraordinary book and one so honest it scorches

Carlo Gebler, Irish Times

From the very first page, arrestingly headed 'The Epilogue,' Burnside's memoir is absorbing

Guardian

Related titles