The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

The Secrets We Kept is a novel about a novel. Lara Prescott has written a fictionalised account of the battle to publish Doctor Zhivago and its repercussions, and the CIA subterfuge in getting it read by Russians.

Edmund Wilson wrote in The New Yorker in 1958 that “Doctor Zhivago will, I believe, come to stand as one of the great events in man’s literary and moral history”. The Kremlin did not agree. It suppressed Boris Pasternak’s novel and it was not published in the Soviet Union until 1988.

Doctor Zhivago is the story of the physician and poet Yuri Zhivago and his struggles in the turbulent and tragic decades of the first half of the 20th century, spanning the Tsarist age, the Bolshevik and the Stalin years. He falls passionately in love with Lara Antipova (memorably played by Julie Christie in David Lean’s 1965 film) but woven through the epic love story is a disillusionment with revolutionary ideas.

Lara Prescott.jpg

Domestic Noir with Lisa Jewell and Louise Candlish

If you enjoyed Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies or Louise Doughty’s recent Platform Seven, then you are already a fan of domestic noir. This sub-genre of crime fiction was defined by the writer Julia Crouch as, rather thrillingly, having “as its base a broadly feminist view that the domestic sphere is a challenging and sometimes dangerous prospect for its inhabitants”. Novels in this category usually take place in the home and workplaces and they often focus on the female experience.

I’ll be discussing domestic noir with Lisa Jewell and Louise Candlish, alongside their brilliant new novels The Family Upstairs and Those People, over wine at Dulwich Books on Tuesday 1st October from 7pm. Tickets are still available via the link below. Join us!

Lisa Jewell.jpg

Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls

Those of us who love David Nicholls’s work feel a sense of apprehension every time he announces a new project: can it possibly be as good as his last? And thankfully, we can all rest easy, it really can. We adored the grown up melancholy as well as the set-piece hilarity of his previous, Booker-longlisted novel, Us, about a middle-aged couple in crisis. And his screenplay for the television version of Edward St Aubyn’s electric series of Patrick Melrose novels remains one of the best things we’ve seen on television.

In his latest novel, Sweet Sorrow, he returns to first love, the subject of his smash hit bestseller One Day. Our hero is Charlie Lewis who has just finished his GCSEs in a small Sussex town in the summer of 1997. In describing the town, Nicholls recalls Tracey Thorn writing about her adolescence in her memoir Another Planet and how one’s hometown can seem a metaphor for a life where nothing materialises.


Platform Seven by Louise Doughty

Platform Seven, Louise Doughty’s ninth novel, begins with the suicide of a man who throws himself under a train at 4am at Peterborough Station. He is observed by the narrator — the ghost of a woman called Lisa Evans, who died in similar circumstances 18 months before.

Those of us who baulk at being told a story by a ghost can be reassured that Doughty fully inhabits the character of this insecure thirtysomething teacher. The mystery over Lisa’s death is the engine that powers the plot.

Though Lisa is not a particularly remarkable person, she is credible and her plight moving. Doughty depicts her emotionally abusive relationship with her toxic boyfriend with skill and empathy. She evokes a textbook case of “gaslighting”, without ever using the buzzword (which refers to the way women are made to doubt their sanity by manipulative partners).


Mortimer House Kitchen

Mortimer House is a 2,900-square-metre members’ club in a seven-storey block on Mortimer Street in Fitzrovia and includes co-working spaces, bars and lounges for its lucky members. The restaurant is open to the public, though, and how inviting it is! The room is large, well-spaced and softly-lit. The design company AvroKO has even fitted acoustic panels in the ceiling so that you can have a quiet conversation in a busy room. The chef here is Lello Favuzzi, formerly of the acclaimed Shoreditch Italian restaurant L’Anima.

The most challenging thing might be working out which combination of which sized plates will leave you full. There are not just small plates here but medium and also large.


Forgotten Fiction Book Club: The Edible Woman

The Edible Woman.jpg

“We get along by a symbiotic adjustment of habits and with a minimum of that pale-mauve hostility you often find among women.”

Forgotten Fiction is a monthly book club where we travel back in time to rediscover 'lost' literary gems of the 20th Century.

Hosted by me, just ahead of the publication of Margaret Atwood's The Testaments in September, we will discuss The Edible Woman, the 1969 novel that helped to establish her as a prose writer of major significance. It is the story of a young woman whose sane, structured, consumer-oriented world starts to slip out of focus. Following her engagement, Marian feels her body and her self are becoming separated.

This will also be last session as host of Forgotten Fiction so there will be cake.

Numbers strictly limited, please book promptly to avoid disappointment. Tickets are £8/£6 (students) and include a gin cocktail