Read an exclusive extract from The Swap by Fiona Mitchell

Read an exclusive extract from The Swap by Fiona Mitchell

Read an extract from Fiona Mitchell’s gripping and heartbreaking new story, The Swap

Two women. Two children. But whose is whose?

When two strangers, Tess and Annie, undergo IVF at an American clinic, their embryos are mixed up and each woman gives birth to the wrong child.

The women only discover the devastating error three years later. Tess wants to swap the children back; Annie doesn’t. As the pair wrangle, neither of them expect what unfolds.

Read an extract, and pick up a copy of The Swap now.

A Beginner’s Guide to Ageing Disgracefully

A Beginner’s Guide to Ageing Disgracefully

Joanna Nell, author of The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village, reveals why she chose to write about an older protagonist, debunks some of the stereotypes of ageing and introduces ‘Women in Their Prime’.

When I first met my heroine Peggy Smart ­– or at least the ceramic sculpture that inspired the character – she was ready for a swim. Oblivious to the tendrils of grey hair escaping from her cap and the cheese-wiring elastic of her bathing costume, there was an unmistakable twinkle in her eye.

I had a vision of my grandmother standing at the bay window in her panty girdle, laughing and showing off her wonderful legs to the neighbours. My mother’s mother was a blue-rinsed bundle of fun who still wore high heels in her wheelchair. I dedicated The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village to her and my always nattily-dressed grandfather, both wonderful role models for ageing.

Many years later when I became a GP, I was drawn to the stoic wit and wisdom of the elderly, and loved listening as they told their incredible life stories. During my regular visits to retirement villages and aged care facilities, I discovered many positive seniors full of vim and vigour, who were busy defying the conventions of ageing.

For some reason, women are judged more harshly than men if they don’t act their age. In ‘ageing gracefully’ older women are expected to be sober, respectable and very sensible. They must refrain from swearing or flirting, and keep their clothes on at all times, so as not to upset the young folk. Fiction invariably assigns older women the role of village busybody, evil stepmother or cookie-baking grandma.

I believe these stereotypes devalue women, who have to contend with both ageism and sexism. Susan Sontag described this “double standard of ageing” in which women are penalised more than men for simply getting old. She also pointed out that by trying to defy ageing rather than embracing it, women are inadvertently reinforcing this double standard. The multi-billion dollar anti-ageing industry – the so-called ‘fight’ against ageing – is testament to the pressure women feel to resist nature. Quite unfairly, society expects women to stay looking youthful for as long as possible and then conveniently disappear. Many women will recognise the invisibility that comes as a free gift-with-purchase at menopause, or feel peer pressured into wear beige once they retire.

Luckily times are changing and an increasing number of women like style icon Iris Apfel, now in her nineties, refuse to accept the dress code. Indeed, women often find the post-childrearing years quite liberating, as their biological clocks fast-forward to Happy Hour. Although ageing undoubtedly comes with its fair share of challenges, women often discover a more authentic version of themselves later in life. I wonder if that’s why it’s called ‘growing’ older. Far from being what the French might discreetly call ‘women of a certain age’, I prefer the term ‘women in their prime’.

There are countless older women who embrace this exciting new phase by studying, travelling, jumping out of aeroplanes or taking scandalously young lovers. For the record, I’m terrified of heights and married my toy-boy several years ago, so my own new chapter involved writing a novel, something I was too timid and self-conscious to do when I was younger.

In Peggy Smart I wanted to create a relatable character who would dispel the out-dated myths and stereotypes of ageing. Bette Davis once said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies”, and for that reason I made the conscious decision not to shy away from the frustrations of an ageing body (and bladder). I wanted to give readers of all ages the opportunity to walk in the shoes of a realistic older woman, seborrhoeic warts and all.

With a little help from her friends (and Harvey’s Bristol Cream) Peggy calls out ageism and ultimately reassures us that age is no barrier to having fun, trying new things or even falling in love. She discovers that there is nothing shameful about ageing; that old age is a privilege, even something to be proud of. What’s more, studies from around the world have shown that having a positive outlook on ageing can halve a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. And when it comes to attitudes about old age, optimists tend to live longer than pessimists. Ironically, worrying about ageing can actually make us age faster.

Ladies, single or otherwise, it’s time for us to put on our big-girl pants (the kind that come in packs of three) and embrace ageing in all its glory. Gracefully or disgracefully, in tummy-control briefs or a G-string, it’s a woman’s choice as to how she ages. As I hope Peggy, Angie and the other residents of Jacaranda Retirement Village demonstrate, getting older is rather like the weather: it can be forecasted but not controlled. When it comes to old age, it’s best to be prepared and carry an umbrella, but go ahead with the picnic regardless.


The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retiremnet Village is availabe to order now.

Read an extract from ‘Trying’ by Emily Phillips

Read an extract from ‘Trying’ by Emily Phillips

The hilarious novel about what to expect when you’re NOT expecting

Meet Olivia Galvin.

She knows she’s lucky. There’s the handsome husband. The sounds-pretty-good-on-paper job. A house they can just about afford. Loving, intrusive and completely bonkers extended family. Plus, she’s having more sex than she’s ever had in her life.

But the one thing she really wants seems to be the one thing she just can’t seem to have…

Capturing the stress, sex and sometime hilarity of trying for a baby, Olivia’s all-too-familiar battles with modern life make her question whether having it all is ever really worth it.

*************

Praise for Trying:

Hilarious, heartbreaking, truthful and bold’ Dolly Alderton

‘Side-splittingly relatable’ Bryony Gordon

‘God it’s powerful . . . Emily Phillips writes about love beautifully’ Marian Keyes

‘A deeply moving and raw story, told with great humour. An assured debut’ Louise O’Neill

Read your exclusive extract from Trying here and don’t forget to order your copy – out soon in paperback!

Trying by Emily Phillips

Trying by Emily Phillips Prize Draw:

Trying by Emily Phillips

Terms & Conditions:

  1. This is a prize draw to win two paperback copies of Trying by Emily Phillips as well as two tickets to The Fertility Show at Olympia London taking place on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th November 2018. The prize does not include travel to the event. For information about the ticket validity, visit https://riverstreet.yourticketbooking.com/termsAndConditions/967
  2. To enter the prize draw, entrants need to like or comment on the Facebook post from Bookends, or retweet the prize draw tweet from Bookends’ Twitter before 11:59 pm GMT on Sunday 11th October 2018.
  3. There will be five winners in total. The winners will be selected at random from the correct entries received in accordance with these terms and conditions by Bookends, whose decision will be final and no correspondence will be entered into. Three winners will be chosen at random from the Facebook prize draw and two winners will be chosen at random from the Twitter prize draw.
  4. There is no purchase necessary to enter.
  5. The competition opens at 14:00pm GMT on 1st October 2018 and closes at 11:59 pm GMT on Sunday 11th October 2018. Any entries received outside these specified times and dates will not be eligible for entry into the competition.
  6. The winners’ names will be published on Bookends Facebook and Twitter on Monday 12th October 2018.
  7. The competition is open to residents of the UK aged 1 8 or over except employees of the Company, their families, or anyone professionally connected to the competition either themselves or through their families.
  8. Only one entry per person allowed. Second or subsequent entries will be disqualified. Entries will not be accepted via agents, third parties or in bulk.
  9. The Company is not responsible for contacting or forwarding prizes to entrants who provide unclear or incomplete information or for entries lost, misdirected, delayed or destroyed.
  10. The Company reserves the right to alter the prizes or cancel the competition without notice but will try to avoid creating any undue disappointment. No cash alternatives to prizes will be provided.  If a Winner is unable to accept their prize or cannot be contacted, the Company reserves the right to select another winner.
  11. The Company will make available the name and county of the winner to anyone who requests this information by writing to the Company at the address shown below.
  12. The Company is the data controller of Personal Data that it collects in the course of running the competition and will use the Personal Data in accordance with the Company’s Privacy Notice (https://www.hodder.co.uk/information/privacy.page) It will use such Personal Data for the purposes of running the competition and delivering any prize(s) and will delete it after a reasonable period from the end of the competition. “Personal Data” means names of entrants and other details provided by them (e.g. email addresses, telephone numbers) for the competition.  The Company will not share such Personal Data with any third parties except for the purpose of delivering the prize(s).
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