The joy of disastrous love affairs

On Thursday I went to Elizabeth Jane Howard’s memorial service and wrote about it here for The Bookseller.

Right now, I would like time to stop so that I could reread everything she ever wrote. I’d start with The Cazalet chronicles – I want to submerge myself in the gloriously messy affairs of Polly, Louise and Clary – then all the other novels and then go back to her autobiography Slipstream and look again at the extent to which EJH mined her own experiences to create her work.

I go a lot with my husband and child to the wetland centre in Barnes, founded by EJH’s first husband, Peter Scott. We have trained our four year old to say, ‘Hello, Sir Peter Scott’ to the statue at the entrance. I’ve started telling him about EJH.

‘She wrote lots of novels and had lots of husbands.’

‘Why did she have lots of husbands, Mummy?’

‘Sometimes people do.’

The first time I read The Cazalets I didn’t have a child and had no interest in them so I failed to appreciate that EJH draws children better than any other writer I can think of.

Please do read her, if you haven’t already, Start with either The Light Years or Slipstream. Tell me what you think.

My Bookshop in the Sky – What to read in May

20130430-212636.jpgPinch punch, first of the month. My August fiction preview will be out in the Bookseller this Friday but May is such a strong month that I can’t resist a little round-up of everything that I would be trying to press on you if you were a customer in my imaginary bookshop in the sky. There is a very nice park near my bookshop, the sun always shines, and I’d like to send you off with something wonderful to read in it.  Continue reading

Tuesday Book Club – Or the one that got away…

So, have you ever done that thing where you’ve written a long and beautiful email and then lost it and not had the heart to retype it because you don’t quite feel you’ll get it quite so good again?

That is essentially what happened to my blog about the inaugural Tuesday Book Club meeting. I lost it weeks ago due to the vagaries of horrible wordpress for IPad and have never managed to recreate it. 

Oh, I was funny about the fact that on the morning of Tuesday book club my husband said ‘what will you do if nobody turns up’ and how I avoided falling into a pit of panicky hostess anxiety and summoned the stoicism necessary to say, ‘if nobody turns up, I will take a photo of the empty room and write a blog piece in it about how it isn’t possible to start a real life book club on twitter.’  Continue reading

The Tuesday Book Club – First meeting

Thanks for all the lovely enthusiasm for the book club.

Okay, so the first meeting will be on Tues 28th August at 7pm at The Old Crown, 33 New Oxford Street

There is another pub called The Old Crown not far away so make sure you get the right one. It’s a nice pub with a little room on the first floor that I’ve booked for us. Please do come. It will be a very friendly affair.

We’ll be discussing Heartburn by Nora Ephron, Continue reading

The Tuesday Book Club


I’m starting a book club. I am massively excited about this because I love my new job but I hugely miss the bit about my old job where I got to talk to strangers about books all the time and where I got to have an opinion on which of all the new books coming out were the ones that people should read. Last week I was walking through the ground floor of the Waterstones in Piccadilly and I saw a man reading the back cover of Tigers in Red Weather. I just couldn’t help myself from stopping to chat to him about it. And that’s a normal thing to do if you work in a bookshop – a bit trickier to pull off if you are passing through with your coat on. Anyway, I woke up on Saturday morning and thought, I don’t have to miss those things, I can have a book club. So I asked on twitter if anyone would come and a pleasingly amount of people said yes so we are up and running. Continue reading

What Gatz and Fifty Shades of Grey have in common

Greetings from my holiday in Holland where it is raining relentlessly. I’m used to spending my holidays in Holland in the rain but this year there is the vague consolation that I would be equally as wet and cold in London. As indeed I was on Friday when I went to see Gatz with my friend Julia. Gatz lasts about eight hours and is the entire text of The Great Gatsby read aloud with no deletions or additions. The set up is that an office worker can’t work his computer so starts reading a book instead and gradually his co-workers join in. There are four intervals and during every single one I overheard a snippet of Fifty Shades of Grey conversation. Old, young, male, female, black and white were all talking about a book in an interval at the theatre. Continue reading

Will Bring up the Bodies win the Booker?

I’ve always loved historical fiction. I discovered Jean Plaidy in Snaith library when I was about twelve and binge read my way through Henry VIII and all those wives in large print plastic-wrapped hardbacks. The thing that is handy about historical fiction is that it is learning on the sly. I’ve never studied History but would bet a fiver that I know more about Catherine de Medici than pretty much any English person who doesn’t have a degree in French History. Possibly for that reason, I am a bit of a purist in that I like the sort of books that have real people reimagined but that don’t veer too far from the source material. Okay by me to make up emotions, but not to invent facts. Continue reading