The Hiding Place
by Trezza Azzopardi
Category: Fiction / General
282 pages; ISBN: ISBN 0 330 48041 3
Rating: 9/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Vanessa Elliott
I wasn't entirely sure how much empathy I would have for the characters in this book. I am unfamiliar with Cardiff, and have never heard of the Tiger Bay area where the book is set. I know very little about the Maltese community in the UK - the focus of the tale. And was not around in the 1960s, the time the story is set. But the author, Trezza Azopardi, writes with so much passion and intimacy that very soon I was hooked, despite my initial misgivings!
Told through the eyes of Dolores, the youngest of six daughters, the book tells the story of the Gauci family. The Father, Frank, is first generation Maltese immigrant and the family survive as long as they do despite him not because of him. He is their connection to the Maltese underworld and it is this life of gambling, backstreet deals, threats and greed that eventually destroy the family.
The book is laced with tragedy and abuse but because we are told the story through the eyes of such a young child, often the reader is left to "fill in the gaps". The book ends with Dolores meeting up with her siblings again thirty years after social services split the family and it is only then that we are privy to some of the more graphic memories of the girls' childhood.
By telling the more horrifying aspects of the book (the Father's sinister moods, the behavioral problems that struck the children and the Mother's manic depression) with such a delicate touch, Azzopardi ensures the readers' senses are not numbed by shock value. Ultimately, the mood of the book was tragic yet touching not shocking and emotional. This style allowed me to empathise with the characters, despite my
inexperience of their world. And this empathy made this book one of the most moving I've ever read.