Our top choices for the bank holiday weekend!

Our top choices for the bank holiday weekend!

Here at Team Bookends, we’ve rounded up our top reading picks for the long May bank holiday weekend! What will you be reading?

Maybe This Time by Jill Mansell

‘This one has been on my to read pile all year and I can’t wait to finally have some free time this bank holiday weekend to fully immerse myself in the new Jill Mansell! The book follows Mimi as she encounters unexpected love…but is it meant to be?’
Ellie, Team Bookends

Buy Maybe This Time here!

FOUR by Andy Jones

‘My Bank Holiday pick is FOUR, the latest gripping novel from Andy Jones with a messy moral dilemma at its heart. The book follows three lifelong friends, Mike, Sally and Al – approaching their fortieth birthdays, each with their share of heartaches and regrets – who take a weekend trip to Brighton with Faye, Mike’s carefree, young girlfriend. A story of old loves, missed chances, and one reckless night with far-reaching consequences, this book will have you pining for a (hopefully less eventful!) getaway to the seaside this weekend.’
Amy, Team Bookends

Buy FOUR here!

Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts

‘There’s no better escapism than being swept up in this whirlwind of a novel and finding yourself in the land of Oz! Told from the perspective of the author L. Frank Baum’s intrepid wife Maud, this richly told story from Elizabeth Letts takes you backstage on one of the most famous movies ever made, and lifts the curtain on a tale of love, magic and one incredible woman. The perfect read to sweep you away this bank holiday!’
Hannah, Team Bookends

Buy Finding Dorothy here!

The Hideaway by Sheila O’Flanagan

‘The Hideaway is the PERFECT summer reading book – so why not start your summer this weekend? The Spanish location is truly escapist, as the novel sees Juno have a shocking and life-altering revelation. Juno might have run away from her secrets, but the past isn’t finished with her…’
Ellie, Team Bookends

Buy The Hideaway here!

The Lost Son by Prue Leith

‘Get inspired this weekend by Bake Off judge Prue Leith’s wonderful new novel The Lost Son. This story follows the Angelottis – a family of Italian cooks and restauranteurs, as they deal with the devastating consequences of the son given up for adoption during the war returning to the fold. Be enticed by the gorgeous foodie description, but stay for the heart warming family narrative. And with the long weekend at your fingertips, why not whip up a delicious Italian dish to work your way through as you devour the book!’
Hannah, Team Bookends

Buy The Lost Son here!

A Cure for Heartache by Mary Jane Grant

‘The other book I’ll be dipping into this Bank Holiday is A CURE FOR HEARTACHE, writer Mary Jane Grant’s uplifting book about moving forward and learning to live in the moment after her 25-year marriage came to an abrupt and painful end. From the bustling cafes of Camden and the pastel-coloured streets of Primrose Hill, to the sun soaked vineyards of the south of France, her journey leads her to rich new experiences that she could never have imagined in her old life. Beautifully told, this is a story about what happens when you embrace life, whatever it may bring, with surprising – and joyful – results. The perfect heartwarming read to get lost in this long weekend!’
Amy, Team Bookends

Buy A Cure for Heartache here!

Kelly Rimmer on writing in two genres: how writing my new book contemporary romance series differed from writing my women’s fiction novels

Kelly Rimmer on writing in two genres: how writing my new book contemporary romance series differed from writing my women’s fiction novels

If you’ve read any of my six previous novels, you probably know that I like to write emotional stories. They don’t always have the happiest of endings, although I do try to find something uplifting to land on over the last few pages! But the topics I have loved exploring over the last few years have been complex, difficult issues; things like domestic violence and forced adoption and drug addiction. My most recent book, The Things We Cannot Say, covers the joy and challenge of raising a child with autism, and tells the story of a young couple caught up in occupied Poland during World War Two! These books are incredibly research intensive and sometimes really difficult to write. I am putting my characters through hell, and some writing days for me literally are me sitting at the keyboard listening to emotional music while I type and sob. Even so, I love the way these books challenge me and make me think. I’ve learned so much about so many things as I wrote these books. My own opinions have been stretched and then changed and, although it might sound crazy to say, they forced me to empathise with people very different to me. Because of that, I feel like the way I love my fellow human beings has been deepened.

All that’s to say, I love my emotional fiction and I hope I’m lucky enough to write these kinds of books forever. But in 2016, I’d just written my book A Mother’s Confession (which is about domestic violence) and my book Before I Let You Go (which is about two sisters trying to navigate a complex legal situation after one is caught up in a drug addiction…while pregnant). I remember having coffee with a friend and she said to me something like ‘it must feel like you’ve been through both of these harrowing, life changing experiences at the same time’. Of course, fiction isn’t reality and I wasn’t quite that burnt out, but I suppose I was a little tired.

The problem is that I love writing. It’s my passion. My hobby. My favourite thing in the world to do (other than spending time with family and dogs, naturally). I felt like I needed a break from sitting at the keyboard sobbing, but I didn’t want to stop writing for any significant period of time.

I was pondering all of this when my friend shattered her ankle. It was an awful injury and she was trapped at home for months, basically immobile. I asked her what she was doing to fill her days and she told me she was reading romance novels. She was basically devouring them – dozens a week. Escaping into a world safe from the difficulties of her real life was saving her and I loved the idea that she’d found such solace in books. A few days later, I heard a podcast featuring romance novelist Kylie Scott. Kylie and I are both Australian and we happen to share our agent, and I was fascinated with her story. I bought one of her books…and by the end of the week, I’d read everything she’d ever written (except the zombie stuff. I’m terrified of zombies!).

It felt a bit like the answer to my ‘what to do now’ question had landed in my lap. A few years earlier, I had two characters pop into my mind, and I knew they didn’t belong in one of my women’s fiction stories. I decided I’d take Abby and Marcus, lifelong best friends, and try to give them a happy-ever-after. Their story absolutely poured out of me, and by the time I was halfway done, I’d already come up with ideas for their friends Paul and Isabel, and Jessica and Jake. The Start Up In the City series had been born.

It would be an understatement to say I loved writing these books. They are very different to my earlier novels – very modern, a bit steamy, and quite light-hearted. That’s not to say I don’t put these characters through hell, because sometimes I do. But these books will always end with our hero and heroine figuring it all out and finding a way to be together.

My women’s fiction novels are intended to entertain, but also to challenge and education and inspire. My contemporary romance novels will hopefully do all of that too, but they are intended to be a delicious escape from the challenges of the real world, and a reminder that in the end, love is everything we have.

Get your copy of The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer here!

Exclusive sneak-peek preview of My Lemon Grove Summer by Jo Thomas

Exclusive sneak-peek preview of My Lemon Grove Summer by Jo Thomas

We have an exclusive sneak-peek extract of the stunning new novel from award-winning author, Jo Thomas. Set in the sunny lemon groves of Sicily, My Lemon Grove Summer follows Zelda as she tries to find a second-chance.

Zelda’s impulsive nature has got her precisely nowhere up until now. A fresh start in a beautiful hilltop town in Sicily looking for new residents, together with her best friend Lennie, could be just what she needs. And who better to settle down with than the person who knows her best?

But the sun-filled skies and sparkling seas can’t hide the shadow hanging over Citta d’Ora, which means not everyone is pleased to see their arrival. The dreams Zelda and her fellow new residents had of setting up a new life might be slipping away. But a friendship with restauranteur Luca could be about to unlock the possibilities that lie in the local lemon groves. And there’s a wedding on the horizon that might be just what the town needs to turn it around…

Could a summer in Sicily help Zelda learn to trust her instinct and follow her heart?

Click here to read the first chapter of My Lemon Grove Summer

Click here to buy My Lemon Grove Summer

My Lemon Grove Summer

My Lemon Grove Summer is out in ebook on 6th June 2019 and in paperback and audio 11th July 2019

Team Bookends recommend their favourite books for Mental Health Week 2019

Team Bookends recommend their favourite books for Mental Health Week 2019

Mental Health Awareness Week takes place from 13-19 May 2019. The theme this year is Body Image – how we think and feel about our bodies.

To celebrate, Team Bookends are sharing some of their favourite books which focus on mental and emotional wellbeing, and aim to empower readers to take control of their bodies and their minds.

Join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #BeBodyKind

Shrill by Lindy West

Lindy West’s Shrill, which has been adapted for television, is about how women are told to be small – physically small, quiet, and small in our presence in the world – and how we shouldn’t accept this. West discusses the obstacles and stereotyping she had to overcome to make herself heard, and tackles subjects including racism, oppression, fat-shaming and rape culture. Full of dark humour, Shrill is a book about how as women we shouldn’t be afraid to take up room.

Hannah

The Mind Monster Solution by Hazel Gale

My choice for Mental Health Week 2019 is The Mind Monster Solution, the brilliant and uplifting book from former elite boxer and cognitive hypnotherapy practitioner Hazel Gale.

Following a career taking on tough opponents in the ring and facing an even tougher adversaries in the form of her own self-sabotage, anxiety and depression, Hazel has created a revolutionary system for tackling negative thought processes. Her book is packed full of practical tips and tools to help manage mental health and improve everyday happiness. Essential reading for anyone tackling a mind monster of their own.

Amy

I Never Said I Loved You by Rhik Samadder

One new voice championing discussions around mental health awareness is actor and Guardian journalist Rhik Samadder. I feel like what Rhik is talking about is particularly on point this year as he unpicks the idea of masculinity and what it means to be a man talking about feelings, anxiety, body image, relationships and depression. His up coming book I Never Said I Loved You reminds me very much of Bryony Gordon’s first mental health memoir – but this time, saying it for the boys! Searingly funny, sharp with comic, everyday (and very relatable) observations but dark, raw and incredibly emotional all at the same time, we’re already getting a massively positive response from the media with big names like Matt Haig and Cathy Retzenbrink leading the charge!

Vicky

13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do by Amy Morin

My second pick for Mental Health Week is Amy Morin’s fabulous new book 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do – a timely and positive manual which tackles the thorny issues affecting women’s mental health today, from sexism to social media.

Empowering and accessible, Amy’s book warns against perfectionism and self-comparison and provides techniques to help women of any age own their power, aim high, and reach their goals – perfect for any self-doubters out there!

Amy

The Little Girl on the Ice Floe: A Memoir by Adelaide Bon

The Little Girl on the Ice Floe is a remarkable memoir – at a time when we’re seeing a lot of success for novels about surviving childhood abuse, Adelaide Bonn’s unflinching and breathtakingly honest testimony is something very special indeed. It’s not an easy read, but the writer’s skill is to take you into her darkness and yet still show you the light. By writing the unsayable, she reclaims her experience. I am stunned by Bonn’s lyricism, candour and strength, but most of all by the frankness of her testimony paired with the beautiful nature of her writing. I cannot recommend this book enough – it will give you a totally new perspective on mental health and a solidarity with those who suffer.

Hannah

Visit the Mental Health Foundation website to find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week and how you can get involved.

If you’re interested in reading more about the week’s theme of Body Image, check out this list of 9 books which will transform the way you think about your body.

The best 99p ebook deals this May!

The best 99p ebook deals this May!

Team Bookends have got the eBook bargain for you this May. From a classic by Jill Mansell to Celia Imrie‘s autobiography, there’s something for everyone!

Staying at Daisy’s by Jill Mansell

The perfect read for those long summer days, from Jill Mansell, Sunday Times bestselling author of MAYBE THIS TIME. Not to be missed if you love the novels of Katie Fforde and Milly Johnson.

Daisy MacLean runs the country house hotel owned by her flamboyant father, Hector. When she hears who’s about to get married there, she isn’t worried at all – her friend Tara absolutely promises there won’t be any trouble between her and ex-boyfriend Dominic, whom she hasn’t seen for years. But Dominic has other ideas…

Meanwhile, Hector’s getting up to all sorts with…well, that’s the village’s best kept secret.

And then Barney turns up, with a little something belonging to the husband Daisy’s been doing her best to forget.

That’s the thing about hotels, you never know who you’re going to meet. Or whether they’re going to stay…

The Oceans Between Us by Gill Thompson

Inspired by heartrending true events, a mother fights to find her son and a child battles for survival in this riveting debut novel.

‘A warm-hearted tale of love, loss and indefatigable human spirit’ Kathryn Hughes

For readers of Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate, Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly, The Letter by Kathryn Hughes, and Remember Me by Lesley Pearse.

A woman is found wandering injured in London after an air raid. She remembers nothing of who she is. Only that she has lost something very precious.

As the little boy waits in the orphanage, he hopes his mother will return. But then he finds himself on board a ship bound for Australia, the promise of a golden life ahead, and wonders: how will she find him in a land across the oceans?

In Perth, a lonely wife takes in the orphaned child. But then she discovers the secret of his past. Should she keep quiet? Or tell the truth and risk losing the boy who has become her life?

This magnificent, moving novel, set in London and Australia, is testament to the strength of the human spirit and the enduring power of love.

The Happy Hoofer by Celia Imrie

One of our best-loved actresses, Celia Imrie has become one of our finest and funniest performers, on stage, TV and screen – adored for her roles in Acorn Antiques and Dinnerladies, as well as films including Calendar Girls and Nanny McPhee.

In her hugely entertaining autobiography Celia Imrie recounts a life hurtling (not always intentionally) into adventures both on stage and off. Whether it’s finding herself on stage with half the scenery stuck to her cardigan, or being kidnapped on her way to location, somehow she emerges from the chaos unscathed.

Acting, she admits, is a mad, chaotic profession and it is her refreshing honesty, sense of mischief, fun and almost unruffled determination in the face of it all that makes this autobiography a never-ending delight.

One Small Act of Kindness by Lucy Dillon

What can you do to make the world a better place?

Libby and her husband Jason have moved back to his hometown to turn the family B&B into a boutique hotel. They have left London behind and all the memories – good and bad – that went with it.

The injured woman Libby finds lying in the remote country road has lost her memory. She doesn’t know why she came to be there, and no one seems to be looking for her.

When Libby offers to take her in, this one small act of kindness sets in motion a chain of events that will change the lives of all of them…

Gifts for Our Time by Anna Jacobs

Germany 1939, and Christa Sommer boards the Kindertransport, unsure that she’ll ever see her beloved mother and father again.

Once in England she is taken in by elderly Mrs Pelling, who grows to love Christa as the daughter she never had.

But in 1945 Mrs Pelling dies.  While her will cannot be found, her money-grabbing niece appears out of the blue to claim her inheritance and turfs Christa out, with only a suitcase to her name. The prejudice against Germans still runs high in England, and Christa is unable to secure a job or a place to stay.

Luck comes her way when she saves a lady from a mugging, and is taken to Rivenshaw to start a new life. There Christa is welcomed with open arms and she soon develops a love for the place, the people, and the handsome Daniel. But is Rivenshaw the trouble-free sanctuary she first thinks?

The Mother in law by Sally Hepworth

From the bestselling author of The Family Next Door comes a new domestic page-turner about that trickiest of relationships and what happens when it all goes wrong.

She has never approved of you. But it’s when her body is found the secrets really start to come out…

From the moment Lucy met her husband’s mother, Diana, she was kept at arm’s length. 

Now, Diana has been found dead, a suicide note near her body.  Diana claims that she no longer wanted to live because of a battle with cancer. But the autopsy finds no cancer. The autopsy does find traces of poison and suffocation.

Everyone in the family is hiding something. But what? And where will the secrets stop?

Almost Love by Louise O’Neill

‘Honest and poignant’ Elle

When Sarah falls for Matthew, she falls hard.

So it doesn’t matter that he’s twenty years older. That he sees her only in secret. That, slowly but surely, she’s sacrificing everything else in her life to be with him.

Sarah’s friends are worried. Her father can’t understand how she could allow herself to be used like this. And she’s on the verge of losing her job.

But Sarah can’t help it. She is addicted to being desired by Matthew.

And love is supposed to hurt.

Isn’t it?

Believe Me by JP Delaney

Claire Wright likes to play other people.

A British drama student, in New York without a green card, Claire takes the only job she can get: working for a firm of divorce lawyers, posing as an easy pick-up in hotel bars to entrap straying husbands.

When one of her targets becomes the subject of a murder investigation, the police ask Claire to use her acting skills to help lure their suspect into a confession. And that’s when Claire realises she’s playing the deadliest role of her life . . .

‘Imaginative, unusual, clever and fun’ – Sunday Times

Exclusive sneak-peek of The First Time I Saw You by Emma Cooper

Exclusive sneak-peek of The First Time I Saw You by Emma Cooper

The First Time I Saw You is the new novel by Emma Cooper, out in ebook on 1st July and in paperback on 19th September

Lost:
Six-foot-two Irish man who answers to the name Samuel McLaughlin. 
Has weak shins and enjoys show tunes.
If found, please return to Sophie Williams.

Before Sophie met Samuel she saw the world in grey. 
Before Samuel met Sophie, he never believed in love at first sight.

When they first meet, something tells them they are meant to be. 
But fate has other ideas.

Now they have lost each other and can’t see a way back. 
But they’ve already changed each other’s lives in more ways 
than they ever expected…

Download a super-exclusive sneak-peek of the new book by Emma Cooper, author of The Songs of Us.

Click here to read!

Click here to get your copy of The First Time I Saw You!

Sheila O’Flanagan on feminism, tough decisions and modern marriage

Sheila O’Flanagan on feminism, tough decisions and modern marriage

The first feminist I ever met was my dad. I didn’t realise he was a feminist. I didn’t even know what the word meant. I was, after all, one of three daughters and I simply assumed that everyone had the same attitude towards girls as he had towards us: that we could be whatever we wanted to be and that we should strive to be the best at whatever that was. My dad encouraged us in our passions and never indicated for a moment that my childhood dream of being an astronaut wasn’t at all likely because, back then, only men were astronauts. Instead, he took me to Dunsink Observatory so that we could look at the stars together.

My mother was – and still is – a feminist too. She was one of the only women in our housing estate to work outside the home in a time when very few women considered it an option. When my father died, heart-breakingly young, from cancer, it was her job that supported the family financially, and my aunts who offered practical support.

I have never known a time when the women in our family didn’t speak up for themselves, or make plans of their own, or support each other, or earn their own money. But there was no set model of how any of us should live our lives. I had aunts who were married with children, aunts who were married with no children and aunts who remained single. I had aunts who worked outside the home and aunts who didn’t. I loved all of them and I looked up to all of them. Nobody ever suggested that any one had made better choices than the other. And while there was a background assumption that the more likely choice for me and my sisters was getting married and maybe having a family, there was also an assumption that we would have a job and strive to do well in it. Whatever decisions we made about our lives, they were all equally valid.

Yet the word feminist was never used. All the women in my family were just living with their choices.

I know I was reared by feminists because I was reared by women who wanted to make their own decisions and live their best lives. Sometimes those decisions were poor ones. Sometimes things didn’t turn out exactly as they’d planned. But at least their mistakes, like mine, were theirs to make.

I write about women who make mistakes because I believe that the greatest power we have is to get something wrong, take ownership of it and learn from it. It’s an impossibility to get things right every time. We take decisions with the best of intentions, but sometimes we have to accept that it hasn’t worked out.

An exhausting number of people seem to think that they have a right to criticise women’s choices, good or bad, without ever having stepped into their lives or knowing what has influenced them. The criticism is in the little things – the clothes we wear, the colour of our lipstick, the style of our hair; and the bigger things – our relationships, our mothering skills, our career decisions. Women are criticised every single day for not getting things right and, sadly, social media has only served to increase the number of times someone can be told that their skirt is too short or their bum is too big or that it’s their own fault they were assaulted.

In my latest book, Her Husband’s Mistake, Roxy has to face a pivotal moment in her life and her marriage. Her husband acknowledges that he’s made one specific mistake. But Roxy, like all women, wonders if she herself is the catalyst for his behaviour; she questions the decisions she’s made in the past and worries about the ones she has to make in the future. As so many women do, she blames herself for the actions of others. It takes time before she realises that she is the one person in charge of her own life.

It’s very important to me that Roxy has the opportunity to get things wrong as well as get things right. And it’s equally important that she has to work out what wants in the future, and that none of it is clear, or easy. It’s also important that she knows which mistakes to own.

Understanding the mistakes of the past and facing up to our own decisions are an important part of living our best lives in the future. Women are afforded less opportunities to do this because we are held to account so often by people who don’t know us or the circumstances of our lives.

But, like Roxy, we just have to give ourselves permission to be wrong as well as right. And to realise that we can learn from both.

Her Husband's Mistake flat lay

Get your copy of Sheila’s new book, HER HUSBAND’S MISTAKE, here.

Andy Jones on the inspiration behind FOUR

Andy Jones on the inspiration behind FOUR

Two couples. One reckless night.

FOUR is the thought-provoking, controversial and immediately gripping new novel from Andy Jones about what happens when two couples swap partners for a night.

It’s a unique story with a tangled and messy moral dilemma at its heart, and we asked Andy to tell us where his inspiration came from.

Someone will ask me what my new book’s about.

“It’s about two couples who swap partners for the night,’ I say.

And then I count and wait for the inevitable response:

1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . .

“It wasn’t inspired by real life, was it?” And they laugh, nervously.

Sometimes I say, “Well, yes, actually.” But only to see the expression on their faces. The way they stand a little closer to their partner and a little further away from me.

The truth is less salacious.

We were on holiday, my wife and I, high on a hill in the Austrian Alps. And I’d been struggling with an idea for a new novel. Something about infidelity, that somehow just wasn’t working. Wasn’t coming together or catching fire. So this holiday was a welcome break from the daily business of banging my head on my desk and wondering why I ever thought I had any business writing novels.

We’d had a long day walking and were enjoying a glass of wine on the balcony. Watching the sun cast long shadows over the surrounding and impossibly green peaks. A couple we know were joining us the following day, we were looking forward to their company and Sarah was suggesting things we might do with them – a hike, a swim, a long lunch.

In truth, I was only half listening. That bit of my brain that concocts or discovers story was ticking over in the background. An almost subconscious process of shuffling together observations, old ideas, notions and frustrations. It’s magic, really; the backroom boys noodling away on the abandoned infidelity concept, while I relaxed, sipped wine, took in the view, and fielded suggestions from Mrs Jones. And then it came to me.

I turned to my wife, who was still talking about the imminent arrival of our friends. (And a handsome couple they are too, by the way). And I said: “How about a foursome?”

Mrs J looked at me. She smiled. Because she knows me, you see. She knows that even when I’m not meant to be thinking about writing, there’s always a small fold of brain tinkering away. “A story?” She said.

“Of course,” I told her. “What else?”

She turned back to the mountains and nodded. “I think that sounds excellent.”

The following day we went for a long walk with our friends. Over lunch, one of them asked me if I was working on a new book. “Yes,” I said. “It begins with two couples swapping partners for the night.”

He sipped his wine as he considered this. “It wasn’t inspired by real life, was it?”

I laughed. “Maybe,” I told him. “But only a little.”

FOUR is out now and available in paperback from 16th May.

The Reluctant Romantic

The Reluctant Romantic

Author Thea Lim tells us about the writing process for her book An Ocean of Minutes and how it unintentionally became a love story.

I didn’t set out to write a love story. In fact, I was startled when my agents Karolina Sutton and Lucy Morris chose to position my book as a love story. I said, are you sure it isn’t migrant literature disguised as time travel? Or a disquisition on the passage of time, wrapped in a mystery? But they pointed out it was the love story held all these elements together. I had tricked myself into writing a romance.

In the same way that it wasn’t obvious to me I’d written a love story, the romance between Polly and Frank – which takes place in a past timeline that’s woven with the present – was most difficult for me to write. One reason is this: I’m a filthy romantic, and I’m regularly overcompensating for this, trying to keep my sappy vibes in the closet. (Spoiler: they escaped.)  

Another reason the courtship was challenging to write: my romantic hero, Polly, is a little emotionally closed-off. She has to be, in order to convince herself to travel one-way into the future. You need a vice-grip on your emotions to pull off a feat like that. I’m drawn to such characters, tank-like champions who just get it done, like my mother and her mother. Plus, it was interesting to write about someone like that in love, telling a story for those of us who didn’t dream of our wedding day, who dreamed instead of a sturdy partnership, or even just a happy life, whatever it may contain. Still, it was tricky. I had to accept that some readers just weren’t going to buy in, if the hero wasn’t given to wild flights of passion.

Faced with all this, I searched out models, especially unconventional love stories. I obsessed over Edward P Jones’ The Known World, which is not a love story at all, but contains one of the most moving and illuminating scenes of people falling in love I’ve ever read, when Elias and Celeste find each other in the most abject conditions. I mapped it and then shamelessly used it as a template for my own characters’ meet-cute. My final version of that scene turned out vastly different, but Jones’ work got me started.  

How writing works (sometimes)

I searched for narratives where much is said with very little. I wanted to match the way I told the story, with who Polly is. My writing teacher, Mat Johnson, gives lectures on the way Children of Men uses a single prop: a ping pong ball. The ball abbreviates years of history into thirty seconds of film, showing that no matter how Julian tries, no one but Theo can catch the ball when she throws it (metaphor alert). The flashbacks in Brokeback Mountain are similar; they are so fast – like when Ennis hums a song from childhood for Jack – and it’s the restraint in the storytelling says so much about how unbearably fleeting love can be. Inspired by these innovative examples, I worked to put my reader on a “need to know” basis.

But I hit a problem. This preference for compression, paired with my reluctance to let loose my inner Diana Gabaldon, had made the love story too subtle. So much of what love is, is unsaid. I didn’t want to have to spell out what was between Polly and Frank; that felt counter to the nature of love. Yet what is both magical and impossible about textual narratives – as opposed to visual ones like film or tv – is that the words are all we have. And if it’s not said (either in or between the lines) the reader can’t follow. What a predicament.

Then I hit the jackpot. I met Cassie Brown at Quercus, who could see the story before it was there: it’s shadow. Over several months, along with my Canadian editor Helen Smith, she helped me fill it in, from small but vital changes (like turning up sentences that whispered about love) to big changes. The original submission I’d sent my agents has five flashback chapters; the final version of my novel has eight.

Author portrait © Elisha Lim

I made one final change. One of the questions An Ocean of Minutes poses is whether or not it truly is better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all. I believe the writer’s job is not to tell us how to be, but to show us many ways to be, fully rendered, so we can choose for ourselves. But my US editor Tara Parsons pushed me to provide an answer to the question I’d posed. You’ve put the reader through the wringer, she said, you can’t leave them hanging!

While I didn’t intend to write a love story, I did intend to write a story about how we love, even though we know everyone will eventually go away from us, through life or time. I wanted to show this loving act in motion, without making an argument as to its value. But when I truly considered it, I did not want to push a book into the world that said it was possible there’s no point to connection, or no point to love.

So I wrote an answer. I added in a paragraph, right before the final one: “She thought all those days had been lost, like beams of light at the end of their reach, scattering into darkness. But he had kept them safe after all.” And then the book was done.

An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim is out now in all formats.

This article first appeared on Bookanista.

Our top parenting books for Meghan and Harry, as they prepare for life with a Royal Baby!

Our top parenting books for Meghan and Harry, as they prepare for life with a Royal Baby!

As we wait for more news about the latest addition to the Royal family, we’ve pulled together a reading list for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle!

Keep reading to find out our top suggestions for the new parents as they adjust to life with a Royal Baby…

Dadlife

Simon Hooper (AKA Father of Daughters)

‘This is the story of my journey into parenthood, from being a 24 year old man-child with no idea of what being a dad involved, to where I find myself today: the single male representative in a household of five women, or in other words, outnumbered. Our house is now known as “the place where silence came to die”. It’s also where you’ll find carpets that are made up of 50% glitter and where there are more pink stuffed animals than at a colour-blind taxidermy specialists. But I wouldn’t change a thing. These people are my life.’

From uninitiated parents-to-be to those who know the ropes in families large or small, everyone will find something to relate to in Simon’s hilarious and chaotic tales of his own home life. His observations of being a father have delighted his hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram: before now dads are often the forgotten ones who carry the luggage, open stiff jars, take photos on holiday, fix broken bikes, go back to work, do the night feeds and make a mean beans on toast with melted cheese without so much as a pat on the back. All too often dads shrink into the background. But not in this book.

Dadlife is an incredibly funny yet emotionally heartfelt ode to modern family life.

The Mummy Lessons

Helen Wallen

The Rules:

1) Try to sleep when the baby sleeps. (SO NEVER. EVER. UNTIL YOU ARE AN EMPTY WINE-SOAKED HUSK AND FALL DOWN DEAD IN THE BABY AISLE AT TESCO)

2) Try to eat when the baby sleeps. (SEE POINT ABOVE)

3) Try to get basic household chores done when the baby sleeps. (ABOVE!!)

4) Batch cook food and freeze in individual portions for easy re-heating. (OR DELIVEROO . . . WITH WINE. AND CRYING)

5) Remember to look after and take time for yourself. (AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA)

Celebrating female friendship, the highs and lows of motherhood, and the lifesaving power of a jumperoo, The Mummy Lessons follows a year of highs and lows for three friends as they learn the hardest lesson of all: life doesn’t always follow the rules…

Things I’d Tell My Child

Katie Piper with Diane Piper

An inspiring and empowering book on raising a daughter in the modern world.

Whether you’re becoming a mum for the first time or you have children who are growing up faster than you could have ever imagined, motherhood can feel like the most joyful and yet the most daunting of times. But you’re not alone.

From the moment I knew my first baby was a girl I started to plan, hope and dream. I couldn’t wait to experience that special bond, but I wondered how I’d feel about being a working mum, how I’d hold on to the person I am. I also knew that the world has changed so much since I was growing up. What advice, values and role models would help give my daughter the confidence and strength to cope with all that might come her way – and to give her an open mind and warm heart?

This is my journey in motherhood: my experiences, hopes and fears – with my mum’s stories of raising me, a parenting expert’s advice and empowering exercises – to guide you from those first wobbly moments to being a happy, healthy mum and raising children who aren’t afraid to be themselves – and to go for the life they want.

Dummy

Matt Coyne

Matt Coyne has become a hero for thousands of parents everywhere who are devoted followers of his popular blog, Man vs Baby.

This is his book, and it is not your average parenting tome. It’s packed with completely impractical advice for the bewildered new mum or dad – stuff you won’t find anywhere else: from ‘Profanity Bingo’ for labour to a categorisation of various nappy disasters. But, more than that, it is the story of how becoming a parent is a kind of beautiful insanity – a thing that changes you.

Above all, Dummy will keep you laughing through the exhaustion, the mystery and the madness of bringing up your own children.

This is the parenting book for real people.