Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2013 and the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2014.
Home is a foreign country: they do things differently there . . .
In a tiny flat in West London, sixteen-year-old Marina lives with her emotionally delicate mother, Laura, and three ancient Hungarian relatives. Imprisoned by her family's crushing expectations and their fierce unEnglish pride, by their strange traditions and stranger foods, she knows she must escape. But the place she runs to makes her feel even more of an outsider.
At Combe Abbey, a traditional English public school for which her family have sacrificed everything, she realises she has made a terrible mistake. She is the awkward half-foreign girl who doesn't know how to fit in, flirt or even be. And as a semi-Hungarian Londoner, who is she? In the meantime, her mother Laura, an alien in this strange universe, has her own painful secrets to deal with, especially the return of the last man she'd expect back in her life. She isn't noticing that, at Combe Abbey, things are starting to go terribly wrong.
Praise for Almost English:
‘Exotic, magnificent and just a little bit sinister, it is the Hungarian characters who take over this beautifully written novel...Almost English has been longlisted for this year's Booker; it deserves to win for the quality of the writing alone...a delight. Beautifully written, warm, funny and knowing, it manages to seize an entire slice of Europe for itself, a vast empire full of new and interesting questions about how close, and how far apart, all these postwar worlds have made us’ Observer
‘Charlotte Mendelson is much admired by the cognoscenti and Almost English ought to be a bestseller...I adore her novels and wish there were many more of them...The [Booker] shortlist should comprise McCann, Tóibín, Mendelson, Crace, House and Catton. House’s novel is the one you ought to read, and Mendelson’s the one that everyone will read and love’ Philip Hensher, Spectator
‘Mendelson's novels inhabit similar territory to those of Maggie O'Farrell, with the same capacity for extreme noticing, the same profound emotional intelligence shaping the characters and driving the narrative’ Observer
‘A mastery of narrative craft...she can take risks and get away with it. There are moments of subtle lyricism, best of all when Frances, hopeless as a new mother and step-mother, comes, like a frozen statue, slowly, hopefully back to life...Nothing here is overwritten. This is not a book about faiths in London or multi-culturalism. Engrossing…emotional depth and stylistic boldness’ Olivia Cole, Literary Review
‘Written with tremendous authority, insight, humour and even wisdom...convincing and moving...funny, absorbing and certain to linger in the imagination’ Spectator