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The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant
The Clothes on Their Backs tells the story of Vivien Kovaks, the daughter of Hungarian refugees who same to London just before World War II. Her parents live a hermetic life, unwilling to let anything undo the shaky foundations of their lives. When her Uncle Sandor comes by when she's a girl, dressed nattily in a blue mohair suit with a stylish watch and a beautiful woman on his arm, her father bans him from the house. Sandor has made his fortune as a slum landlord to immigrants, and he's sent to jail for a while. As Vivien enters into adulthood, she has trouble finding her place in English society, trying different fashions as she experiments with finding her identity. When she helps Uncle Sandor write his memoirs about his experiences during the war, she finds the strength in his stories helps her forge her own place in life. Linda Grant's novel has received positive reviews with The Telegraph saying, "Grant's own particular beam reveals the way we acquire our sense of self from what gets reflected back to us, either in the mirror or in our relationships with others. She is as at home writing about the thrilling ripple of silk as she is charting social tensions."