‘Lowborn’ by Kerry Hudson #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog


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I bought this book because I read some of Kerry Hudson’s articles in The Pool and in The Guardian. She’s a fabulous writer, and I recognised in her writing some aspects of my own childhood (that could be me and my sisters on the cover!).

Reading some of the more negative reviews of this book actually shines a light on how those who have no idea of what it’s like to be poor continuously misrepresent and misunderstand poverty. There are plenty of reviews putting the blame resoundingly on Ms Hudson’s mother and her mental health issues. These reviewers completely miss the point that mental health issues are exacerbated by poverty. How much harder is it to cope with anxiety, depression, addiction, etc. when your life is so enclosed? When you are frustrated at every turn? When there is no help because of cuts? And inevitably there is the review that cites the poor families with their plasma screen TVs and consoles – because god forbid poor people should have any pleasure in life at all.

There’s a whole lot more I could say about poverty and childhood and inequality, but this is supposed to be a book review.

While difficult to read at times, this book has an enormous amount of warmth. While parts of Ms. Hudson’s life were harrowing, there are moments of joy too, and it’s so interesting to read about her feelings as she confronts her past and revisits those places where she grew up and that helped form her.

These stories need to be told because society wishes to look in the other direction, because we do not want to think of the children a few streets away who have eaten rubbish food and not nearly enough of it, in a house where the heat isn’t on and they don’t own a single book, in threadbare clothes that are too small for them, being cared for by a parent who desperately requires help themselves.

Perhaps it’s easier, though, because if we did look at what was really happening, surely we wouldn’t be able to live with that?

Reading this though, and some of the reviews, and the comments on Twitter whenever anyone mentions poverty or foodbanks or people on benefits, I wonder if it’s less that people don’t want to acknowledge the reality of society in 2019, or that they really just don’t care. Books like this are so important, because people need to know – you can’t keep turning away from children like Kerry.

5 stars




  1. Brilliant review Alison, and I couldn’t agree more. I didn’t live in the kind of poverty that Kerry describes, but I grew up in a working class family, and as I go through life (mixing in seemingly, increasingly, middle class circles I am flabbergasted by the degree to which people’s ignorance manifests as judging and blaming those who live ‘without’. It’s absolutely heartbreaking. I went to see Kerry Hudson speak in Sheffield a few weeks ago and she was so engaging and warm and inspiring. I haven’t bought Lowborn yet but it’s definitely on my list!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you 🙂 I would love to see her speak, but haven’t managed to yet. I do think there is a horrible tendency for people to feel superior to others simply because of an accident of birth and a complete lack of understanding of other people’s circumstances. Social media seems to make it worse unfortunately. Like you, I now mix in more ‘middle class’ circles, and it’s difficult to always keep my mouth shut! I shall just recommend this book in future instead of arguing!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. An excellent review. I do agree that many people simply do not care about those who live in poverty. This summer a visitor to the museum indicated the council flats along the river and said something about it being dreadful. I thought he was referring to the architecture and said that at the time they were built it was considered cutting edge – but, no, he was meaning it was dreadful that ‘those kind of people’ were able to live in flats which have such stunning views of the river. I suspect if he read Lowborn he would chunter on about the need for people to pull themselves up by their boot straps. As he was one of those posh Scots who sound like they went to English public school he has no grasp of what living in poverty means. Climbing off soapbox now.

    Liked by 1 person

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