We Had It So Good

We Had It So Good

A Novel

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Stephen Newman’s children find it hard to believe that their father once dressed up in Marilyn Monroe’s furs, cooked acid at Oxford and lived with their mother, Andrea, in an anarchist collective. Quite often, Stephen finds it hard to believe himself. Born to immigrant parents in sunny Los Angeles, Stephen never imagined that he would spend his adult life under the gray skies of London, would marry and stay married and would watch his children grow into people he cannot fathom. Over forty years he and his friends have built lives of comfort and success, until the events of late middle age and the new century force them to realize that they have always existed in a fool’s paradise. Linda Grant’s utterly absorbing novel about the generation that came of age during the 1970s reveals the truth about growing up and growing older and once again displays her uncanny ability to illuminate our times.
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  • Scribner | 
  • 352 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451617450 | 
  • April 2012
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Sunshine

Aged nine, Stephen standing outside the fur storage depot where his father works, his sturdy legs in shorts planted on Californian ground. Feet wide apart, shoulders up, arms behind his back, his neck sticking out from the collar of a checked shirt to which a narrow bow tie has been clipped, and his round, Charlie Brown head dusted with the dark shadow of a crew cut. All-American boy.

“That day,” he told his children, “was the most exciting day of my life. That’s when I put on Marilyn Monroe’s fur stole. And got thumped on the head by my old man when he saw what I was... see more

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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for We Had it So Good includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


INTRODUCTION

Set between the United States and the United Kingdom, Man Booker short-listed author Linda Grant’s We Had It So Good is a sweeping history of the evolution of the baby-boomer generation. In 1968 Stephen Newman, the son of an immigrant Californian, leaves America for Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship. There his world evolves, as he, his future wife Andrea, and their friends come-of-age during the hazy 1970s. With humor and coruscating insight, We Had It So Good is an unfailingly tender portrait of a family and an era.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

  1. There are a number of catastrophic events that hang over the social landscape throughout the narrative—including the remnants of WWII, Vietnam, the September 11 attacks, the terrorist bombing of the London tube, and the political strife witnessed by Marianne outside of Bosnia. How does disaster shape the characters in We Had it So Good?
  2. On page 17, Marianne tells her brother that “you cannot rely on them. Parents, by definition, are l
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