Devotion by Madeline Stevens

img_5195Devotion by Madeline Stevens

Published by Faber

Available from all good online and high street Bookshops

 

What Is Devotion All About?

Desire. Deception. Destruction. Devotion.

Ella is 26, lonely, hungry and far from home. Lonnie is also 26, but rich, talented and beautiful – with a husband and son to match.

Their fates intertwine the day Ella is hired as the family’s nanny. She finds herself mesmerised by Lonnie’s girlish affection and disregard for the normal boundaries of friendship and marriage, but soon resentment grows too.

Crackling with sensuality and suspense, Madeline Stevens’s debut novel is a dizzying thriller in which roles are confused and reversed and nothing is ever quite as it seems.

What Do I Think About Devotion?

I’d wanted too much from her, wanted to conquer her, to become her, to encase her in my life in order to write her out of her own.”

I have realised as I have got more and more into book blogging, that there are definitely some types of novel I am always attracted to. One of those is any novel that features an unreliable female narrator.

Devotion is exactly this.  A novel about a woman called Ella who longs to be exactly like her employer, to have her life, her world, her husband.  To seamlessly glide into Lonnie and James’ life and become everything to both of them.  Ella is driven by her desire to consume the world around her and become the one thing they cannot live without.

Right from the start of the novel we are aware of two things – that Lonnie is no longer with James, and that Ella’s former life is one of little money and scant recognition.  Daily she has to make choices about how she spends the little money she has, and her life is really a mundane hand to mouth existence.

Ella makes up a resume and invents a past which impresses Lonnie and is her entry to the world she wants to inhabit.  It is done easily and without many reservations, and sets the precedent for Ella’s behaviour for the rest of the novel.

For Ella, to be a nanny to a woman who is the same age, and has all this wealth at her fingertips without any care or conscience is something that both fascinates and angers Ella.

Her desire and devotion to Lonnie and James, means that she doesn’t just want to work for them, she wants to be right at the heart of their marriage, to know everything about them.  It is however, Lonnie who becomes the object of Ella’s obsession. As the nanny to their child William, this gives Ella the perfect opportunity to search through their house, to read Lonnie’s diary, to sneak peaks at her photo albums, and even to take little items like a worthless ring, and wear it right in front of Lonnie.

What works so well about Devotion is the way in which nothing is as it appears.  Even though Lonnie and James appear to be the ultimate Insta-perfect couple, all is not what it seems, and Ella discovers that Lonnie is having an affair with Carlow, James’ best friend.  No one is above suspicion, no one is blameless, and you feel that Lonnie and James’ world may sparkle, but that it lacks any sort of real emotional depth.

As Ella manages to inveigle her way into Lonnie’s world, the lines between Employer and Employee merge, and the two women become far more involved than is at all appropriate.  The physical similarities between Lonnie and Ella add a disorientating quality to the book – at times you are not sure where Ella ends and Lonnie starts.  Ella is finding herself increasingly attracted to Lonnie, but she also craves to be Lonnie so deeply, she attempts to seduce both James and Carlow.

Little by little, Madeline Stevens starts to blur reality and fiction, which is most evident when Lonnie, Ella and William head to an Artist’s retreat.  Isolated, away from all the norms and conventions that they usually live by, Lonnie and Ella are free to be whoever they choose.  It is there that Lonnie convinces Ella to become her, to wear her clothes, adopt her mannerisms, all in an attempt by Lonnie to allegedly play a prank on the pompous course leader.

Devotion is constantly filled with sensous images of food and eating, of wealth and decadence and it is a clever and subtle way of drawing you closer to the story. I felt it brought me closer to Lonnie and James’ world, to understanding why Ella falls so utterly under their spell.

All the while, as a reader, you are aware of a slow, burning tension between all the characters. We already know that Lonnie is nowhere to be seen at the the start of the novel, and that Ella and Lonnie are increasingly one and the same.  The world around them, and for us seems to take on an ethereal quality, where rules and boundaries are merged and lines are crossed without consequence.

For me, seeing Ella trying to find her way into a world which only values her as the Nanny, was a clever and taut plot device which added to the simmering resentment you sense that Ella has for the privileged, but also the realisation that she yearns to be part of this world too.

When Lonnie and James go to visit Lonnie’s father, taking Ella to help look after William, Lonnie’s father makes it very clear what he thinks about Ella and her position in the family.  From here on in, Devotion takes on an even darker tone, and we realise that James is far from the debonair and charming husband we may have believed.  The novel slides towards a very unsettling and disturbing climax, disorientating and almost other worldly in its hazy and unsteady resolution.

One thing is certain, that no one will ever be the same again.

Devotion is a clever, sharply satirical and unsettling novel, that perfectly captures the contradiction of wanting everything, but ultimately having to lose yourself in the process.  It shows us how easy it is to be beguiled by a world we believe we need to be part of, but that belonging comes at a heavy price for Ella. Devotion makes us realise that those without are regarded as a fair currency for those with much more privilege to do exactly what they want with – irrespective of the cost.

Thank you as always to Lauren Nicoll at Faber for my copy of Devotion in exchange for an honest review.

Author Madeline Stevens.

Don’t forget to see what these other bloggers are saying about Devotion too as part of the Faber Blog Tour.

 

 

 

 

Lady In The Lake by Laura Lippman

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Lady In The Lake by Laura Lippman

Published by Faber Books

Available from all good online and high street bookshops

 

What The Blurb Says:

Cleo Sherwood disappeared eight months ago. Aside from her parents and the two sons she left behind, no one seems to have noticed. It isn’t hard to understand why: it’s 1964 and neither the police, the public nor the papers care much when Negro women go missing.

Maddie Schwartz – recently separated from her husband, working her first job as an assistant at the Baltimore Sun– wants one thing: a byline. When she hears about an unidentified body that’s been pulled out of the fountain in Druid Hill Park, Maddie thinks she is about to uncover a story that will finally get her name in print. What she can’t imagine is how much trouble she will cause by chasing a story that no-one wants her to tell.

What I Say:

“Men were no help at all she decided. Men kept each other’s secrets.

Men put men first in the end.”

 

To start to read the Lady In The Lake, is to lose yourself completely in the world of Baltimore and a time where a woman’s worth is solely judged on their ability to ensure that food is on the table, the house is tidy, the children are seen and not heard, and women’s own hopes and dreams are relegated to an afterthought.

Maddie Schwartz is seemingly a happily married woman, wife to Milton and Mother to Seth.  Her culinary and hostessing skills are second to none, and her privileged life and social connections should guarantee a comfortable and secure life.  Except for Maddie, it’s not enough.

Caught in a world that has meant she has had to subdue every outspoken word and trapped in a life that brings her no personal joy, she makes the brave decision to walk away from her marriage and start her life over again.  Make no mistake, Maddie is not a meek and mild woman unable to do anything on her own, she is a fiercely independent person who has decided that her time is now.

As she sets out on her own, she has to make sacrifices about where she lives and what she does, and her decision to live in a neighbourhood which is removed from the gilded cage she has previously inhabited is the start of her quest for independence.

Laura Lippman has an amazing skill to her writing, which lingers on all the seemingly inconsequential details of everyday life in the 1960’s, but also affords us the opportunity to see the reality of what life was like for women at that time.  A woman’s worth is measured by her ability to procreate, to keep home and to ensure that above all her man is happy.  Now that she is free from these constraints, Maddie can finally be in charge of her own destiny.

After she inadvertently helps to solve a murder, Maddie’s desire to work for a local newspaper becomes her motivation to stay in this new life she has chosen.  She eventually manages to get work on the local paper The Star as an assistant to the man who helps local people solve problems with the most mundane of things.  Maddie is astute enough to realise that in order to make any mark in this male dominated world, she will have to use her intelligence and wit to get what she wants.

Laura’s skill at describing the testosterone laden, sexist and claustrophobic newspaper offices, put the reader right at the heart of everything.  Every step forward that Maddie makes is pushed back as the men in the press room take credit for every discovery she unearths.  It is easy to see how much easier it would have been for Maddie to put up and shut up, but as a reader you can feel how frustrated and exasperated she is, and you know that Maddie is not going to fade into the background.

When a resolution to one of the paper’s problem letters means that apparently the body of Cleo Sherwood is found in a local fountain, Maddie feels an affinity to her, and decides that she is not going to let this black woman be another forgotten story, consigned to a few lines in The Star.

Maddie’s voice is not the only one we hear.  There are other characters who also tell us all about the world Maddie and Cleo are in.  We hear from a bar tender, a waitress, a psychic, police officers and other journalists, as well as Cleo’s family, and most importantly Cleo herself.  Not only do we learn more about Cleo and Maddie, and how they are viewed by the world around them, but in having multiple narrative voices, we learn about the racial issues and inherent sexism that were of that time.

1960’s Baltimore is no place for a woman like Maddie to have a mixed race relationship, and her passionate relationship with Ferdie, a black police officer, has to be conducted at nightime and almost exclusively in the confines of her apartment.  To go public in such a hostile world could be catastrophic for both of them.

One of the many things I loved about the Lady In The Lake is the parallels that Laura draws between Cleo and Maddie.  The novel starts with a scene where Cleo sees Maddie and their eyes lock briefly for a moment, and it seems that the two women are poles apart, living in completely different worlds.  The thing is, Maddie and Cleo are more alike than you could possibly imagine.  They do not want to be constrained by the limits that society has placed on them. Both women are absolutely aware of their sexuality, and know exactly how to use it to get what they want.  Men are often perceived as stepping stones to them attaining what they are searching for.

The Lady In The Lake succeeds so well because it uses the slow, simmering tension which keeps us entranced right from the first page.  Maddie and Cleo are strong women who refused to be silenced, and together have a voice which refuses to go away or to be ignored.  Their stories are told with tenderness and understanding, and at the end of the novel, I really felt that they had made a lasting impact on me. 

Laura Lippman has written an exquisitely paced and timely novel, which is a powerful indictment of a world that unfortunately still holds many truths for us today.

Thank you so much to Namra Amir at Faber & Faber for the chance to join the Blog Tour and for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review

Please check out the other brilliant Bloggers who are also taking part in the Lady In The Lake Blog Tour.

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Nightingale Point by Luan Goldie

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Luan Goldie: Nightingale Point

Published By: HQ Stories

Available to buy online, and at all good book shops..

What The Blurb Says:

On an ordinary Saturday morning in 1996, the residents of Nightingale Point wake up to their normal lives and worries.

Mary has a secret life that no one knows about, not even Malachi and Tristan, the brothers she vowed to look after.
Malachi had to grow up too quickly. Between looking after Tristan and nursing a broken heart, he feels older than his twenty-one years.
Tristan wishes Malachi would stop pining for Pamela. No wonder he’s falling in with the wrong crowd, without Malachi to keep him straight.
Elvis is trying hard to remember to the instructions his care worker gave him, but sometimes he gets confused and forgets things.
Pamela wants to run back to Malachi but her overprotective father has locked her in and there’s no way out.

It’s a day like any other, until something extraordinary happens. When the sun sets, Nightingale Point is irrevocably changed and somehow, through the darkness, the residents must find a way back to lightness, and back to each other.

What I Say:

I am going to be honest with you all, and say from the outset, that if I had known what Nightingale Point was about, I don’t think I would have asked for a copy to read and review. Not because of the setting, or the subject matter (more of that later), but because of one character. Elvis.

Elvis is a young man with learning disabilities who lives in Nightingale Point, and is visited by his seemingly disinterested, go through the motions, tick the box carer. He is there because it is deemed the most appropriate place for him in our community, and he has to deal with navigating life and all it throws at him in a world where he is seemingly a statistic to be analysed.

The thing is, while Elvis is content with his life, able to cope with living semi independently in his flat, it is the attitude and behaviour of those around him in Nightingale Point flats who have little understanding and even less tolerance. I found these chapters so hard to read, and had to stop and gather myself before reading the rest, because it was all too real, a snapshot of a future for my eldest son who, like Elvis, has learning disabilities. and one which I cannot comprehend having to face.

Why are my personal reactions to one resident remotely relevant when discussing Luan’s novel about a block of flats filled with lots of people? To have an emotional reaction to something so personal means that Luan has absolutely understood the subject she is writing about, and it is testament to her skill as a writer that I didn’t want to stop reading, and couldn’t put this novel down.

After all isn’t that the thing about literature, that it not only entertains, but also educates and challenges us?

Luan has written an emotional and powerful novel that not only made me confront a part of my life that I have always conveniently put to the back of my mind, but she also writes so eloquently and passionately about all the residents, that you fall into the novel and only surface when you have lived through their experiences and gained a deeper understanding of what life is really like for them.

As well as Elvis, we meet brothers Tristan and Malachi, Mary, and Pamela. The one thing they have in common at the start of the novel is that they are all residents of Nightingale Point. By the end of the novel, they have another thing in common, that one Saturday morning, their lives will never be the same again.

Malachi is responsible for Tristan, as his mother is no longer around, and he is trying to balance his own studying with doing everything he has to in order to ensure that his brother can live with him. As well as keeping their heads above water, Malachi has fallen in love with Pamela, a girl who lives in a flat upstairs with her overbearing and controlling father. Their relationship is carried out in snatched moments and lies to those around them so that they can spend some precious time together. Unfortunately when Pamela’s father finds out, he makes a decision that on that day will have devastating consequences.

As Mary struggles with her day to day life, she is torn between being faithful to her increasingly absent husband, and allowing herself to live the life she truly deserves. Mary is a kind and thoughtful woman, who has made a promise to look after Malachi and Tristan, and is in essence the mother figure they both desperately need. As the novel progresses, you really understand how Mary is trapped by what other people expect, and that her desire to live the life she wants is suppressed by the fear of other people’s disapproval.

Nightingale Point is not simply a novel of their everyday life, but you have to read all about these people to appreciate why this is such an important part of the story. To understand the enormity of what happens to all the residents, you have to know their stories, to understand why they are there and what makes them who they are. It is only then, when we are totally engaged with the characters, that Luan shifts the narrative and suddenly their world is no longer limited to their flats and estate.

Something monumental happens to them all (you know me by now, no spoilers – you have to read it!) and Nightingale Point is now a novel about finding your way in a life you never thought would be yours. For Tristan, Malachi, Pamela. Mary and Elvis, they will never be the same people again as when they woke up on that Saturday morning.

Luan’s tender exploration of lives changed beyond recognition, draws us even closer to her characters, and as we follow them in the aftermath of Nightingale Point’s drama, we see how they all are simply people like us, trying to find their way back to a world they took for granted. All of them are bonded together by what they have experienced, but they all react differently and emerge from the darkness with a renewed understanding and desire to live the lives they deserve, rather than the ones they have accepted.

I loved it – and Elvis will always hold a special place in my heart.

The Other Mrs Miller by Allison Dickson

 

Allison Dickson: The Other Mrs Miller

Published By: Sphere

Available from all good bookshops from 16th July

 

What The Blurb Says:

Two women are watching each other.
Phoebe isn’t sure when the car started showing up. At first she put it down to the scandal around her late father, but she’s certain now it’s there for her. What’s interesting about an unhappily married housewife, who barely leaves her house?

Only one knows why.
Every morning, not long before your husband leaves for work, I wait for the blinds beside your front door to twitch. You might think I’m sitting out here waiting to break into your house and add a piece of your life to my collection. Things aren’t quite that simple. It’s not a piece of your life I want.

When a new family move in across the street, it provides Phoebe with a distraction. But with her head turned she’s no longer focused on the woman in the car. And Phoebe really should be, because she’s just waiting for an opportunity to upend Phoebe’s life…

What I Say:

Let’s be clear about this.  I was never planning on doing a blog post about The Other Mrs Miller, definitely a tweet review, possibly a video one, and I picked it up on Saturday morning because I was trying to clear my TBR Pile and I liked the look of the story.

Normally, if I intend to write a review, I have a notebook filled with copious notes, pages littered with post its, and a blog post set up and ready.

I am flying by the seat of my pants as I write this review as I can only tell you what my reactions are as I sit here and type!

The thing is, once I picked it up The Other Mrs Miller, I couldn’t put it down because it’s the absolute definition of a page turner, and I wouldn’t be doing my duty as a book blogger if I didn’t recommend it to you!  It is such a perfect summer read, and I am not surprised that it has been picked up to be a television series.

It’s the story of Phoebe and Wyatt Miller, who live very comfortably in a beautiful house in an affluent area of Chicago. Their marriage is slowly falling apart, as Phoebe and Wyatt move further away from each other, and is compounded by the fact that they had a stillborn son and are now unable to conceive naturally. Phoebe has had to endure the pain and disappointment of multiple IVF failures, and no longer feels the connection she once had to her husband.  While Wyatt has a career as a therapist, Phoebe doesn’t work and is also tainted by the fact that she is the daughter of the businessman Daniel Noble, who has been all over the press and is notorious for his awful treatment of women, so her father’s reputation precedes her.

Bored, listless and bitter at what her life has become, Phoebe spends her days in a drunken haze in her mansion, unable to face being part of the world outside, worried that she will encounter hostility and anger from those who know who her father is.  As the days pass, she notices that there is a blue car constantly parked near her house all the time, and that someone seems to be watching her.

When Phoebe tries to tell Wyatt about her concerns, he brushes them aside as the ramblings of his drunken wife, who has far too much time on her hands and is refusing to try and work on their marriage. When a new family called the Napiers move in across the street,  Phoebe starts a friendship with the mum, Vicki, and she finally starts to allow herself the luxury of having a friend and realises maybe it is time to start living again.  The only problem is that the Napiers have a college age son called Jake, and although Phoebe knows it is wrong on every level, she feels herself attracted to him, and knows from the sideways glances, and things that are not said, that he feels the same way too.

The Napiers might, on the face of it, seem to be the average American family, but as Phoebe gets closer to them, she starts to understand that what you see is not always what you get. Is this all American family as wholesome and naive as they initially seem?

Allison brilliantly shifts the narrative between Phoebe and the occupant of the car, so that we understand not only what has brought the driver to a point in their life where sitting outside Phoebe’s house is the only course of action for them, but that there is a dangerous and unpredictable edge to this person that doesn’t bode well for Phoebe.

As Phoebe and Jake edge ever closer, they make an emotional decision which starts a chain of events that pulls you along at a break neck speed as you hurtle towards plot twist after plot twist, and a series of revelations that will have you flicking back through the pages wondering how on earth you missed them! There are a few plot points that will make you stop and say ‘really?’ but, put those doubts aside and just let yourself get lost in the glorious and unrelenting drama that you cannot help but be caught up in!

There are scenes that you almost have to read through your fingers because they are so tense, where the characters sit in a polite silence because no one wants to be the first one to unleash the reality of what they all know..

The problem with reviewing The Other Mrs Miller is that to tell you anything else that happens will only ruin it for you – and you know me by now- I’m not going to do that!

The Other Mrs Miller is a perfect, fast paced novel, which thrills and shocks you as you turn each page.  It is a novel about identity, what family means and how in the most extreme situations, normal people can find it in themselves to do things they would never have thought possible.

Aside from the fact that I really enjoyed it because it is a rattling good read,  it also allows us to go behind the curtains of the houses in this privileged road in Lake Forest, and shows us that behind every erratic decision and heated argument, there are real people with lives that have been damaged and changed forever by the actions of others.

The Other Mrs Miller is an unapologetic, full on page turner, perfect for a Summer Read. Let yourself get lost in it, revel in the plot twists and just sit back and enjoy the drama!

Thank you so much to Viola Hayden at Sphere for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.

It’s Here..! My Booktime Brunch with Antonia Honeywell on Chiltern Voice

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Thank you so much to Antonia for sending me a copy of the Booktime Brunch Show!

Feel free to have a listen, hear how much #Booklove (I know!), there was in this show, and let me know what you think!

To all the people I tagged in my previous post, have a listen to see what we said about you … (all lovely I promise..!).

Thank you for all the wonderful feedback already, and now you can hear the whole thing..

 

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did doing it, and let me know if you have any suggestions of books we should be talking about for our Autumn and Christmas Special.

Lots of love,

Clare

xxx

Booktime Brunch and sharing the Book Love..

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Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be a guest on Antonia Honeywell’s show #BooktimeBrunch on the Chiltern Voice Radio Station – we spent two fantastic hours chatting about all things blogger, bookish and Summer Reads.

I promised Antonia that I would write a blog post about my experience, but when I thought about telling you all about appearing on a radio station – let’s be honest- it ain’t going to go viral!

One thing that struck me, was that in just that two hours, what came to the fore in our discussions was the love we have for books and reading, and in turn, we talked about a LOT of people from all areas of the book world.

Antonia and I talked about bloggers, authors, publicists and people from the publishing world, all of whom share the same goal.  To make us talk about reading and books.

In the past few months, as a blogger probably right in the middle of things, I have been saddened by the negativity I have seen on social media.  There have been debates about how to write a blog, should you post negative reviews (Personally I don’t, thank u next!), tagging authors in negative reviews (Really?!), and whether bloggers are influenced by the pull of free books.

We are all united in the fact we love reading, and that we love books.  I am tired of negativity, and I don’t want to be part of it. We need to remember why we started doing what we do, and to have confidence in our opinions and also to treat people like we want to be treated. I read somewhere that you should only write a tweet with things you would be prepared to say to that person’s face, and I think that’s a fantastic attitude to have.

So, this post is a great big thank you to all these people who are fantastic at shouting about books, and supporting those of us who are trying to shout about them too!

Look them up, read what they do, follow them, read their blogs, and here’s to us all of us for sharing the book love!

The Books We Talked About

Something To Live for by @richardroper from @orionbooks – published 27 June

You Will Be Safe Here by @Damian_Barr from @BloomsburyBooks – out now

Leonard and Hungry Paul by @MumblinDeafRo from @Ofmooseandmen – out now

City of Girls by @GilbertLiz from @BloomsburyBooks

Confession with Blue Horses by @Sophiehardach from @HoZ_Books

This Brutal House by @niven_govinden from @dialoguebooks

The Heavens by @sannewman from @GrantaBooks

The Rapture by @ClaireMcGlasson from @FaberBooks

The First Time Lauren Pailing Died by @allyrudd_times from @HQstories

Riverflow by @AlisonLayland from @honno

In Her Wake by @MandaJJennings from @OrendaBooks

A Perfect Explanation by @ellieanstruther  from @salt

Dignity by @alysconran from @wnbooks

Worst Case Scenario by @FitzHelen from @OrendaBooks

 

Also, in case you didn’t know – and you really should, because she is far too modest to tell you,  Antonia has written The Ship which is published by @wnbooks  and she is on twitter as @antonia_writes

 

The Fabulous Book Loving Bloggers We Talked About

@BookishChat

Amanda is a truly brilliant blogger, who puts into words the posts I wish I could. She is  also so supportive of everyone around her, and posts the BEST Instagram stories which genuinely make me laugh out loud.

@thelitaddict_

Siobhain writes fantastic and thoughtful reviews, and if she is talking about a book, I know I am going to want to read it!

@corkyorky

Emma is one of those bloggers who writes effortlessly, and her posts always mean I end up adding more books to my Reading Pile..

@bookbound2019

Rachel writes blogs so well, and I often read them and wish I could have found those words! She is always spot on with her reviews and is pitch perfect in her blog posts.

@ShortBookScribe

Nicola has been such a kind and supportive blogger since the day I started. She is also a prolific blogger, whose love and passion for reading is plain for everyone to see.

@Sophie_Jo_Books

Sophie writes so eloquently and with such emotion and passion, her love of reading is infectious and she is always such a cheerleader for books and bloggers.

@SezzThomas

Sarah is not only a fabulous blogger, but she is also so kind and ready to help everyone else find their next read, that she is a pleasure to follow!

@annecater

Anne, and her Random Things Through My Letterbox Blog is an absolute gold standard for other Book Bloggers.

She is endlessly supportive of other Bloggers and it is wonderful to have her in our corner! Ann also writes Book Reviews for the Daily Express and is a powerhouse Blog Tour Organiser for authors & publishers.

@Frizbot

Naomi is a writer and interviewer, and her blog is a testament to the immense canon of writing by women.  A must read.

@EleanorFranzen

Eleanor not only works as a bookseller, but her lit crit blog is also a fantastic read and Antonia loves it and constantly recommends it, so you need to check it out!

@lonesomereader

Eric is a thoughtful and passionate blogger, who is so well known and respected in the blogging community. His reading always inspires me to try something different and step out of my comfort zone!

@Nicki_Mags

Nicki is a prolific reader who has been suggested by a number of people as one to follow, she loves to read a whole range of genres, and is an amazing advocate of reading and books!

The Amazingly Supportively Publishing People

Karen Sullivan is the founder of  @OrendaBooks  who is so supportive of her authors, but is also an amazing advocate of the blogging world. Her passion and enthusiasm shines through everything she does, and she was one of the first people in publishing who engaged with me and retweeted my review of @sarahstovell  and her novel Exqusite. Karen gave me the confidence to keep going.

Sam Missingham  – @samatlounge who is not only a major player in the Publishing Industry, but is also responsible for founding @lounge_books and constantly talking about books and authors.  Sam is an immense power in the publishing world who is tireless in her efforts to get people talking about books and publishing.

Virginia Woolstencroft  – @gigicroft  superstar, superhelpful publicist for W&N, Orion Spring, Seven Dials, Orion Fiction and Trapeze. Gigi’s love of books is evident in how approachable and supportive she is to bookbloggers, and she is a pleasure to talk to.

Janet Emson  – who has introduced me to Leonard And Hungry Paul, sent me a copy of Case Histories when I had lost mine, and is so kind and helpful in my search for new books – @JanetEmson

Rachel Wilkie  – @RLWilkie  from Bloomsbury Books has always been so friendly and approachable, and took a chance on me and my reviewing by sending me a copy of Damian’s book – I am really grateful to her for helping me out and supporting my blogging!

Thank you so much to Antonia for having me as a guest on her show #BooktimeBrunch on @ChilternVoice it was an absolute joy to be honest!  I am going to be going back in the Autumn and Christmas too, so if anyone wants to suggest some books Antonia and I should be talking about, please let me know!

This post is just the start of my mission to keep talking positively about books, reading and blogging and the people who love them too.

So, the only thing you need to answer is – are you ready to share the #Booklove too?

 

Over Forty Shouldn’t Mean Overlooked.

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My name is Clare, I am 48 years old, happily married, two kids, one bonkers Springer Spaniel, and I love to read.  I love reading literary fiction, novels written by women, about women, and have always gravitated towards female authors.

What does this have to do with anything?  Quite simply because sometimes, I would like to read a novel that has an older woman at the centre of it, who is someone I can read about and think – finally, a character who is not an amalgam of all the cliches of every seventies sitcom ever.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about my reading and blogging, and especially how women of my age are represented in fiction.

Here are some depictions of women my age that really get on my nerves.

I am going through the menopause, and although I have hot flushes and occasionally forget things, it also means that I am incapable of functioning and that I am reliant on my 13 year old to show me how to use technology.

I dress how I want, if it’s what I feel comfortable in then I don’t really give a monkeys what anyone else thinks – but apparently my wardrobe should only consist of beige, elasticated waists and comfy shoes.

I am extremely capable of many things, am not meek or mild, but apparently I should be dependent on my husband to mow the lawn or fix the leaky tap while I do the ironing and get flustered about cooking a roast dinner.

Wife, Mum, Daughter, Sister are titles for these women, but they don’t define me.  How I think and behave makes me who I am.

This morning I saw that @MsLisaMilton who is an executive publisher at @HQStories  along with @gransnet  are running a competition for all female writers over forty, where they are asking entrants to write a story which features a leading character over the age of forty.  If you fancy having a go, you can find the link here to enter.

Lisa then tweeted a link to this Guardian article, which talks about the realistic depiction of women over forty in fiction.  In it, Alison Flood talks about the research from HQ Stories and Gransnet which was compiled from a survey of women over forty (I completed it too).  The Survey looks at how women feel they are portrayed, and what their reality is.  Alison notes in her article how it is an important initiative and that there are already some older women characters out there.

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There are of course such characters, but do you know what, we need to start talking about this topic so much more widely now.

As an over 40’s blogger – and bloody proud of it since you ask, I know there are lots of women who really want to see those characters in fiction that we can relate to.

Don’t assume that because we are over 40 we are dead from the waist down, don’t assume that we are always caught in a never ending cycle of housework and shouting at teenagers, resentfully sorting out the laundry while everyone else around us is having lots of sex and are happy in their marriages. Don’t assume we all have a family around us to help with the logistics of childcare, or that we are spending our evenings sorting out our tupperware cupboards while our partners snooze on the sofa.

Over 40 does not mean the end of our lives, in my experience it has been the start of a whole new one.

I want to see older women in my fiction who are made stronger by their experience, who revel in their knowledge of the world and are happy and balanced, who don’t have to be validated by the labels that everyone around them has created.  I want to read about women who have the self-belief to do what they want simply because they can.  I want to read about women like me, and every other woman over 40 I know.

I believe that Book Bloggers are a really important part of any discussion like this.

We love to talk about books, and I know I am always looking for novels I want to read that have a main character that makes me want to turn the pages.  Along with publishers like HQ Stories, there are so many opportunities for this idea to become a reality. There is a huge resource sat only a keyboard away, a whole group of dedicated and enthusiastic Bloggers who would love to help shape the way that fiction is created and consumed, who will happily shout about these books and authors as widely as possible.

The discussion about how women over 40 are depicted in fiction has already started, I for one am going to seek out more novels that already do this, and try to redress this in my own small way. If you are reading this post, and you know of any novels I should be shouting about, tell me.

Together, publishers, readers and bloggers have an amazing opportunity, not only to change the way women are portrayed but to also talk about women over forty who are writing too.  There is an incredible group of women on all sides just waiting for this opportunity, and when we work together we can really make a difference in the world of fiction.

My name is Clare, I am a 48 year old reader and blogger, and I’m from this point on, I’m absolutely #ForTheWomenFromTheWomen