Sunday
08
December
2013

Novels of the Year: 2013

 

 

Making it into my list of 2013 novels in the Observer (click on the book title for the original full-length review): Big Brother by Lionel Shriver (The Observer), Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld (The Observer), The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud, Home Fires by Elizabeth Day (The Observer), The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, The Deaths by Mark Lawson, Unexploded by Alison Macleod (The Observer), Lion Heart by Justin Cartwright (The Times), Blood & Beauty by Sarah Dunant (The Times), The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (Red), The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (Red), Instructions for  a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell (The Observer), All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld (The Times), Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (Red) and May We Be Forgiven by AM Homes (The Observer).

Whilst I recommend all these books, it’s interesting to note the ones I read even though I knew I wasn’t going to be reviewing them: Claire Messud, Meg Wolitzer, Mark Lawson. With all the others, lots of them I read and then ended up reviewing (it’s relatively rare for me to read something because I *have* to review it and have no choice). 

Thursday
28
November
2013

Femen’s Naked War

 

Picture by Paris-based photographer Ed Alcock (for ES magazine), whose book Hobbledehoy is out now. 

 

I loved interviewing Femen co-founder Inna Shevchenko in Russian (and a tiny bit — troshki — of Ukrainian) in Paris for ES magazine for the London Evening Standard. I have mixed feelings about Femen and the point of what they’re doing. And, as I stated in the piece, I worry for their safety: they are extremists and that attracts the attention of other extremists. But Shevchenko is a fascinating and intelligent young woman with her heart in the right place. I was sorry she had not heard of Germaine Greer.

Hilariously, a picture of me with Femen got me a warning from Facebook. (You’re not allowed to publish pictures of nipples.) And when I posted the link to this piece on the Standard website, I was banned from Facebook for 24 hours. I daren’t risk putting this picture there again…

Sunday
27
October
2013

Downton Series Four, Episode Six

 

 

It sounds uncharitable to say it, but I just don’t know how much more of Downton I can take. I have started surreptitiously watching The Paradise on BBC1 on Sunday evenings (surreptitious because I have to fool myself into watching it as I just can’t get caught up with watching anything else). And The Paradise is so much better than Downton! They have a crazy lesbian French lady retailer who is really into lavish firework displays! I’m blogging the wrong series.

Here’s the review of Episode 6 of Downton. Beware spoilers. At least there are only two more episodes to go.

Sunday
27
October
2013

Fab children’s reads

 

 

Here’s a few of my favourite children’s books in Red. Very pleased to see this week’s Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize has gone to Rebecca Stead for Liar & Spy — great book.

Saturday
12
October
2013

“Selfish Mother: Love Your Life and Your Kids”

 

Very proud to be part of this brilliant new idea: a website celebrating Selfish Mothers. Being a decent person and parent is all about what they tell you on a plane: put on your own sodding oxygen mask first before you try and save anyone else.

Of course, I would say that, though, wouldn’t I? What other way do you justify doing 100 gigs in 100 nights? “When it comes to being a selfish mother, I have quite literally written the book on it. You can’t get more self-centered than doing something you want to do just because you want to do it for a hundred consecutive nights. Something which you do for the love of it and to scratch an itch and because you know you have to. I neither regret it nor would I recommend it. But it made me understand that sometimes it’s OK to be outlandishly selfish, as long as there’s an end in sight.”

Saturday
12
October
2013

Donna Tartt reviewed

 

 

Fron Red November issue: review of Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. “If you are a very good writer, it’s an excellent trick to spend many years finishing a book. Because when your book comes out it automatically becomes the publishing event of the year, if not the decade. Of course, it helps if you are Donna Tartt, who ticks all the boxes. She’s an eccentric, solitary genius who makes us wait and wait and wait for her work. And when it comes it’s brilliant.” That’s about the size of it.

Monday
30
September
2013

Bridget: The Sequel

 

 

Talking all day on radio and TV about Helen Fielding and Mad About the Boy, with my “Bridget-Jones-fan-meets-literary-editor” hat on. (It is a large pink beret.) Let’s just leave aside my discomfort about the fact that it is not actually possible to read the whole book yet. It’s heavily embargoed until next week.

It has been serialised in the Sunday Times (for the first time yesterday, revealing the death of Darcy — horrors!) and in the Times. But apparently not even they have access to the whole book, to avoid spoilers. It’s out on October 10th and all will become clear then…

Meanwhile, I’ve speculated a bit for Red Online here about whether it’s a good idea to have made Bridget 51 years old. It’s a gamble. But I guess with 30 million copies sold, Helen Fielding must know what she’s doing, right? Right?

Sunday
29
September
2013

Austenland reviewed

 

Jennifer Coolidge! Brett McKenzie from Flight of the Conchords! Lots of good actors and some funny turns! But Austenland is really not that great, I am sad to report. Click here to listen. Presenter Kirsty Lang: “For the first half hour of this film, I thought, ‘I can’t believe I’ve come to see this. This is horrible…'” Me: “I too felt dirty. And I did not think that is what Jane Austen would have wanted.” Stick to DVD box set of BBC’s 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Sunday
29
September
2013

Bridget’s Back!

 

Writing in today’s Independent on Sunday Magazine about the return of Bridget Jones.”Bridget Jones was born in 1995, aged 32. The first column – “9st. The irreversible slide into obesity” – appeared in The Independent on 28 February, the week that Barings Bank collapsed. John Major had been prime minister for half a decade and would be there for another two years to come. The expression “New Labour” was yet to be used on a Labour Party draft manifesto. Later that year Pierce Brosnan played Bond in GoldenEye and the Princess of Wales played herself in the Martin Bashir documentary watched by 22.78 million people. The novel of the year? Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity.”

The pictures (above) were a hardship. We got through a whole pack of Marlboro Red (not very Bridget, I’m sure she smoked Silk Cut) trying to get the shot. And no-one on the shoot smoked so we were all nearly sick. Good times!

Saturday
28
September
2013

Manchester!

 

I am very excited to be coming to Mad̶chester! In fact I am, as they say, mad for it. This is all part of the Women in Comedy Festival, the first UK festival celebrating women in comedy with 100 events at 16 venues over the whole month. Featuring Lucy Porter, Zoe Lyons, Gina Yashere, Susan Calman and loads of amazing laydeez.

I’m at the King’s Arms in Salford doing the (FIVE STAR — YES!) show of I Laughed, I Cried with What the Frock (click here for the review of the Edinburgh show) at 7pm on Thursday 3 Oct. Tickets are £5. Or slightly less if you buy them in advance — save 60p! Go wild on the money you have saved!

 And I’ll be at Waterstones Arndale at 12pm on Friday 4 Oct. This event is free. If I have enough time to make some, I might bring some brownies. (Cakes, not extra daughters. One Brownie in the house is enough.) I am also at Laughing Labia at Taurus Bar, Manchester, on Friday 4 Oct at 9pm. More on all this here

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