Piggy Monk Square

A policeman disappears. A young girl knows where he is but she can’t tell.

Time is running out in


Short-listed for the Commonwealth New Writers Prize, Grace Jolliffe’s Piggy Monk Square is a dark and humorous novel, informed by her own experience of growing up in 1970’s Toxteth in Liverpool – shortly before the infamous Toxteth riots.

The novel is narrated by a nine-year-old girl but this is not a children’s story. Rebecca’s parents are splitting up. Her best friend’s father is constantly in and out of prison and teaches them to fear the police.

Their world is dark, confusing and frequently brutal. The two girls mix reality with fantasy – especially when it comes to coping with what will soon become their terrible secret.


Rebecca and Debbie are playing in the cellar of a derelict house when a policeman catches them and warns them to keep away. But they have nowhere else to play and when they return they are caught again.

This time the policeman is very angry and the two terrified girls try to run away. He chases them but he trips and falls into the cellar and goes unconscious.

The girls think he’s asleep and desperately hope that he will wake up soon. They are so scared of getting into trouble that they decide to keep this a terrifying secret.

The policeman is too injured to escape and becomes dependent on the two girls. But the longer he remains in their care the worse it gets. Their efforts to help him have disastrous consequences for them all.


‘A stunningly well-written novel. I didn’t want it to end. Tense, joyous, terrifying, comic, tender, magic and tragic – just like childhood itself.’  Willy Russell

‘Piggy Monk Square is unbearably tense and utterly believable. The voice of its young heroine is so beguiling and convincing that you feel that you’ve met her. And then the story forces you to share her terrible secret. Like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle: illuminating and satisfying.’  Frank Cottrell Boyce

‘Nine-year-old Rebecca, chirpy as her nickname, “Sparra”, is the lively narrator of this disturbing child’s-eye view of 1970s Toxteth, over which the spectres of poverty and police brutality hang. Her mum and dad quarrel and she hates school, where the sadistic Mr. Shelby hits her for misdemeanors. Sparra and her friend Debbie get their kicks roaming the streets, fighting their arch-enemies Uffo and Lippo, laughing at the drunken antics of crazy Harold and his wife with their dead baby’s pram, and running from the man they call Stabber the psycho-killer. Their favourite place is the cellar of a bombed-out house in Piggy Monk Square, but that is spoilt when a scary cop warns them away. The tables are turned when the cop falls into the cellar and lies there injured. The real punch of this slice-of-life tale comes from the appalling isolation of Sparra’s childhood. Grown-ups don’t listen to the likes of Sparra. The punch leaves you gasping. ‘Rachel Hore – The Guardian

‘Capturing the vividness of childhood and the exuberant cadence of Liverpudlian childhood slang. It’s a subtle but compulsively readable novel, combining the bittersweet provincial nostalgia of, say, Meera Syal’s Anita and Me, with a dark and subversive parable that has echoes of Whistle down the Wind.’
Laurence Phelan – Independent On Sunday

‘A gripping, intriguing page-turner which bears testimony to the craft of Jolliffe…One of its most appealing facets is the authentic use of language which at times mirrors the first person appear of the autistic teenager in Mark Haddon’s ‘The Curious Incident Of the Dog in the Night Time. Grace’s Liverpool childhood has helped her create a truly believable character in her book. It’s also laced with some wry scouse humour too.’  Mike Chapple – Daily Post.

‘Within a very few pages this novel draws you in. Piggy Monk Square deserves success and would certainly make a great film.’  Maria Ross – Publishing News

‘A tight and tensely written story that captures well the imagination of children as well as the confusion and alienation that is so often a part of growing up, trying to follow the rules of the adult world when they keep changing. An excellent debut novel.’  Ken Taylor Nerve Magazine

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