The Amazingly Astonishing Story

Lucy Gannon
Publication Date: 
Monday, October 26, 2020
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Shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year 2021. Vote for it to win the WBOTY People’s Choice Award on the Wales Arts Review website.

By turns laugh out loud funny and deeply sad, The Amazingly Astonishing Story is Lucy Gannon’s childhood memoir, a frank and surprising look into a child’s tumultuous mind. A soldier’s daughter, Lucy lived in many places but after the death of her mother when Lucy was six, she was lodged with relatives in Lancashire, taken in only because the Army paid an allowance for her care. Escape beckoned when her father remarried but Lucy and her brothers soon found they had swapped one difficult situation for another. The boys fled into the armed forces leaving Lucy behind, a loathed gooseberry in her father’s second and passionate marriage. 

Lucy’s escape was her convent school where, though abysmal at maths, she discovered a flair for writing and in the nuns she found warmth and understanding. Forced to leave home at sixteen, she joined the Women’s Royal Army Corps (‘the only organisation desperate enough to take me on’). 

Vividly told, The Amazingly Astonishing Story is a classic story of a working-class girl growing up in the fifties and sixties, where dreams and reality seem irreconcilable. Her Catholic upbringing, a father torn between his daughter and his new wife, her irreverent imagination and stubborn determination to enjoy life , all mean that Lucy Gannon really does have an amazing story (including meeting the Beatles in her school grounds) as she finds her place in the world.

Lucy Gannon is the author of 8 plays and 18 TV dramas or series, including The Best of Men, Soldier Soldier, Peak Practice, Bramwell, and Dad. She won the Richard Burton Award for New Playwrights and has been writer in residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

“This is a fantastic book. Lucy Gannon offers her giant heart in this story of herself growing up and trying so hard to matter. It’s the saddest happiest funniest book I’ve read for ages, and it contains the most excellent swearing.” – Dawn French

“Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to perform in many of Lucy’s screenplays, which are always an actor’s dream: full of three-dimensional characters drawn with warmth and humour. Here, in her own real-life drama, she excels herself… she’ll have you in tears, barking in anger, and laughing out loud in the space of one beautifully crafted sentence.” – Kevin Whateley



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Reviewed by Rachel Rees, Buzz Magazine

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

There can’t be many people brave enough to call their memoir The Amazingly Astonishing Story, and fewer still whose account of their life would live up to such a billing. Luckily for the reader, playwright Lucy Gannon’s remarkable work is one of them. Not for Gannon the formulaic, David Copperfield-esque approach of beginning at the beginning. Instead, she dives straight into an immersive sea of distant fathers, cold step-mothers, loyal friends and kindly nuns.

Written entirely in the present tense, the memoir dazzles and devastates in equal measure, showing us the world as viewed by an often neglected, sometimes abused but always remarkably resilient and wonderfully funny adolescent. It is a fascinating world in which 2s become swans, imaginary friends Elvis and Clint Walker pop round to help you do your chores, and the shadow of a particular uncle looms large over the narrative and Gannon’s childhood nightmares.

In another person’s hands, this story could easily become one of the ubiquitous misery memoirs which stalk Amazon bestseller lists and Take A Break covers. Instead, Gannon’s indomitable spirit and hilarious turns of phrase make this a laugh-out-loud, pottymouthed redemption narrative in which you will cheer on the heroine even more than you long to reach into the book and rescue her. Spoiler alert: keep reading, and this amazingly astonishing woman will manage to save herself.

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