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    • ISBN:9781472209368
    • Publication date:16 Jan 2014
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Season to Taste or How to Eat Your Husband

By Natalie Young

  • Hardback
  • £12.99

The most subversive and gloriously unexpected novel you'll ever read about the end of a marriage and its aftermath.

Always let the meat rest under foil for at least ten minutes before carving...

Meet Lizzie Prain. Ordinary housewife. Fifty-something. Lives in a cottage in the woods, with her dog Rita. Likes cooking, avoids the neighbours. Runs a little business making cakes.

No one has seen Lizzie's husband, Jacob, for a few days. That's because last Monday, on impulse, Lizzie caved in the back of his head with a spade. And if she's going to embark on the new life she feels she deserves after thirty years in Jacob's shadow, she needs to dispose of his body. Her method appeals to all her practical instincts, though it's not for the faint-hearted. Will Lizzie have the strength to follow it through?

Dark, funny and achingly human, Season to Taste is a deliciously subversive treat. In the shape of Lizzie Prain, Natalie Young has created one of the most remarkable heroines in recent fiction.

Biographical Notes

Natalie Young was born in London in 1976. She studied English at Bristol University and published her first novel, We All Ran Into the Sunlight, in 2011 while working as the Arts and Books Editor of Prospect Magazine. For several years before that she bought books for serialisation in The Times and contributed regularly to the Books section and to the Saturday Review. Season to Taste or How to Eat Your Husband was published to great critical acclaim and commercial success in the UK in 2014 and has sold into a further seven foreign territories. Natalie is now writing the screenplay for Season to Taste while also working on her third novel as part of a Creative Writing PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London. She lives in London with her two children.

  • Other details

  • ISBN: 9781472209351
  • Publication date: 16 Jan 2014
  • Page count: 288
  • Imprint: Tinder Press
A stomach-turning and terrific novel...a brilliant and literal dissection of a marriage — The Times
Engrossingly depicts not only bodily appetite but the deepest emotional hunger pangs of being human...compulsively readable — Observer
Daring, groundbreaking and original — Irish Independent
One of the most talked-about books of the year...filled with black humour — Daily Mail
An enjoyable feast of anger - witty and poised — Deborah Levy, author of Swimming Home
'Season to Taste is written in a laconic, pared-down style that immediately brings to mind Camus' L'Etranger. If that seems a somewhat grand comparison, it is not, for Young's book is one of those rare beasts - a literary novel of ideas written in simple language that could be both a university set text and a supermarket bestseller' — Tom Tivnan, The Bookseller
Set to be one of the most talked about - and most gruesome - books of 2014 — The Sunday Times
Young delivers an authentic portrait of a neglected marriage, and her light and compelling prose carries this macabre tale along — The List
Season to Taste is a modern-day fable about the end of love and moving on. Natalie Young has given us a shockingly, thrillingly new vantage on a timeless story of marriage's demise — Stefan Merill Block, author of The Story of Forgetting
2014's most talked-about novel — Harper's Bazaar
'Brilliantly disturbing... echoes of Roald Dahl's dark adult fiction... fascinating in the most gruesome way. Delicious!' — Image
Move over Fifty Shades, there's a brand new genre whipping the publishing world into a murderous frenzy — Evening Standard
Tinder Press

Season to Taste or How to Eat Your Husband

Natalie Young
Authors:
Natalie Young

Natalie Young

Natalie Young was born in London in 1976. She studied English at Bristol University and published her first novel, We All Ran Into the Sunlight, in 2011 while working as the Arts and Books Editor of Prospect Magazine. For several years before that she bought books for serialisation in The Times and contributed regularly to the Books section and to the Saturday Review. Season to Taste or How to Eat Your Husband was published to great critical acclaim and commercial success in the UK in 2014 and has sold into a further seven foreign territories. Natalie is now writing the screenplay for Season to Taste while also working on her third novel as part of a Creative Writing PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London. She lives in London with her two children.

Headline Review

Kissing in Manhattan

David Schickler
Authors:
David Schickler

A breathtaking and stylish debut featuring the Pre-emption, the most glamorous and strange apartment building on earth, and some extraordinary characters: Patrick, the diabolic millionaire with a penchant for nude restraint; Rally, the travel writer lying tied up in Patrick's bedroom during an unusual party; Jacob and Rachel, whose secret nightly bath is suddenly headline news; Hannah, the nymphomaniac perfume heiress; and Douglas, the teacher who is invited to dinner by his star pupil's parents, and propositioned. Manhattan, shaken, a little bit stirred.

A selection of our best romantic reads

The Perfect Reads for Valentine's Day

SPARE BRIDES – Adele Parks This dazzling new book is Adele Park’s first historical novel, and WHAT a read it is. Set in the glittering, glamorous 1920s, it’s the story of four women – Ava, Lydia, Sarah and Beatrice – and how they are coping in the aftermath of the war. The 1920s was a highly charged decade: the young threw themselves into hedonism and wild partying to obliterate the horrors that the First World War brought to them; and yet, the sadness and damage caused by war couldn’t be forgotten. Parks captures this contradiction wonderfully, and her beautiful, yet damaged set of characters will draw you in emotionally and never let you go. The Desires Unlocked trilogy – Evie Blake Evie Blake is the mistress of seduction and writes steamy, passionate romance with a sophisticated, European twist. Blake’s heroine, Valentina, is in many ways the antithesis of Fifty Shades’ Ana – Valentina is chic, liberated and very, very cool. Her on-off romance with her lover Theo creates a powerful dynamic throughout the series, eventually culminating in a seriously romantic – and sexy – finale in New York that will leave you gasping for breath. THE UNPREDICTABLE CONSEQUENCES OF LOVE – Jill Mansell THE UNPREDICTABLE CONSEQUENCES OF LOVE is just wonderful. I defy anyone not to fall in love with Jill’s writing, her characters and the worlds she creates. In THE UNPREDICTABLE CONSEQUENCES OF LOVE Jill takes us to a beautiful seaside town full of secrets and intrigue. As ever with Jill, I devoured this in one totally indulgent afternoon and then chastised myself for finishing it already. Lots of laughter (and a rogue tear – embarrassingly enough!). THE PROPOSAL – Tasmina Perry This is the utterly spellbinding, breath-takingly romantic novel from Tasmina Perry which will sweep you off your feet this Valentine’s. When Amy Carrell is left devastatingly heartbroken, she is desperate to be with her family back in New York. Stumbling across an advertisement requiring a companion for a ‘Manhattan adventure’, she responds, and is whisked away, forming an unlikely friendship with British aristocrat, Georgia Hamilton. Unravelling Georgia’s history and transported to the lost world of the debutantes in 1958, Amy uncovers a painful past of masked secrets, the highest betrayal and broken hearts. Buried for over fifty years, this love story is finally told, and I promise you that it will stay with you for ever. THINGS WE NEVER SAY – Sheila O’Flanagan Sheila’s latest novel is an absolute treat. It is one of those books which you completely want to curl yourself up with and lose yourself in – especially during a grey and rainy February as the main character lives in sunny California! When Abbey Andersen’s life is turned upside down by a long-buried family secret she learns genuinely how important your friends and family can be to get you through tough times. Referring back to the title, this is about THOSE THINGS WE NEVER SAY, but maybe we should. On Valentine’s Day this should probably be ‘I love you’. The Anti-Valentine’s choice (but a cracking read): SEASON TO TASTE – Natalie Young This is the deliciously dark and subversive story of Lizzie Prain, one of the most remarkable – and controversial – heroines in recent fiction. Season to Taste has been hailed in the media as ‘the new Fifty Shades of Grey’ – not because its content is sexually explicit (it’s not), but because it’s at the forefront of a new genre, dubbed ‘chick noir’, about women and marriage and the darker side of one of the most intimate relationships that exists between humans – that between spouses. If you’re not feeling romantic on Valentine’s Day, this darkly comic tale of a woman who kills her husband and then disposes of his body in a highly unusual way, will appeal. Warning: unsuitable for vegetarians.

Posted by Christina Demosthenous, Editorial

Blog: Desert Island Reads

When it comes to packing, choosing my holiday reads is definitely the best bit. And while I was spoilt for choice this year, I began imagining (with difficulty) which books I would take with me if I was stranded on a desert island. I’ve put this question to some of my fellow Headliners (asking them to ignore the existence of e-readers, which would eliminate this conundrum…) Feel free to take inspiration for your beach book this summer! I would have to choose E.M. Forster’s Howards End – a book to transport me to the streets of London and travel back in time. It deals with almost everything: issues of class, family, philosophy, gender, art and love, but most importantly, it has a very special place in my heart. My dad once gave me a beautiful edition of Howards End with a message inside, saying he hoped the novel would have the same profound and lasting effect it had on him when he was younger. So as well as keeping me entertained and leaving me enriched, it would help me feel less lonely stranded on a desert island! John Wordsworth from Fiction Editorial thinks that ‘you have to choose something that lends itself to multiple reads. I ploughed through The Brothers Karamazov when I was far too young and found it simultaneously fascinating and baffling, so I’d consider that. Although being stranded on a desert island would be depressing enough without Dostoyevsky, wouldn’t it? I think I’ll have go for a story that my grandmother used to read to me, one that makes me think of home, and reminds me that things have a funny way of working out: The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr Seuss.’ Two books at very opposite ends of the spectrum, John! Laura Ricchetti from Sales would take the complete works of Frank O’Hara, ‘to keep me happy’ and Moby Dick, because ‘it’s a wicked book and might even teach me some sailing stuff so I could get off the island too.’ Good thinking. Emily Kitchin from Fiction Editorial would take I would take Jilly Cooper’s Score! She says: ‘Other than having obvious physical benefits for a desert island (it’s large and would double up nicely as a pillow, foot stool or weapon), it’s got everything you could want in a novel. All the old favourite characters appear (the arrogant yet charismatic Rupert Campbell-Black; his young yet adorable wife; his snooty but desirable daughter Tabitha, and so on), and are on top form gallivanting about, riding horses and having steamy affairs. In time-honoured Jilly Cooper tradition there’s a host of new characters too, including the hot and sexy Frenchman Tristan who becomes embroiled in a love triangle between icy-but-beautiful Tabitha and plain-but-loyal Lucy. There’s a film set, a blood-curdlingly nasty villain in the form of the monstrous Rannaldini, and a whodunit to rival Eastenders’ ‘Who shot Phil Mitchell?’ storyline. It would keep me entertained for hours.’ I’m sold! Publicity’s Elaine Egan chose two books. She cleverly picked The Swiss Family Robinson, ‘a handy and practical guide to living in a remote paradise, hopefully without the beastly creatures’ and as her back-up read, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, where ‘reading about Yossarian’s jinks would keep me somewhat sane.’ Ben Willis from Publicity would also choose Catch-22 – a popular choice! ‘It's terrifying, silly, hilarious, poignant, dense yet readable, vivid and yet almost cartoonish: basically everything you need to make you feel less aware of being stuck on an island with only a volley ball for company.’ Darcy Nicholson from Fiction Editorial went one better than Elaine and picked three desert island reads. Charles Dickens came out on top with Great Expectations, ‘because this is as meaty a novel as I can imagine – every time I read this, I find new depths, new character flaws, new angles. To me this book is endless.’ Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis comes a close second ‘because fascinating doesn’t even cover it with this one. I could spend hours in open-mouthed awe at the sheer brilliance of Amis’s concept.’ And thirdly, Darcy chose William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, ‘because I have never read it and cannot imagine a more apt time to do so.’ Frances Edwards from Editiorial and Publicity also has three emergency picks. How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran, ‘for the times when I want to laugh until it hurts’, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, which comes top of her list of ‘books I’m embarrassed that I haven’t read’ (and what a better time than to conquer this list than when stranded on a desert island) and finally, ‘anything that Patrick Gale’s ever written’ because ‘he’s got a character to complement every mood and moment. And he writes great stories, beautifully.’ Richard Roper from Non-Fiction Editorial would take Kirsty Young's Desert Island Discs book ‘just to see what other people would be reading on a desert island.’ Great answer! Alternatively, he’d choose Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach, partly because ‘it's the first book I can remember properly loving’ and secondly as it would ‘give me hope that other oversized, floatable fruits may lead to my escape.’ Another great answer! Production’s Ant Simnica has two top choices, and neither is a light read! The Dinner by Herman Koch, which he read in one sitting and ‘then wished I’d saved it. Tense, unsettling and darkly funny, The Dinner follows an evening with two brothers and their wives at a restaurant. As we learn of the horrific crime their sons have committed, and the reaction unfolds, it really made me think about far we might go to shift the blame and protect our own’ and Lionel Shriver’s We Need To Talk About Kevin: ‘obviously everyone loved this book, but for good reason. A captivating take on mother-son relationships and how our whole perceptions of ourselves and those closest to us can change so much. A true page turner that builds to a jaw-dropping ending. Probably the only book I’ve ever read twice.’ Sherise Hobbs from Fiction Editorial would choose anything by Tasmina Perry, whose novels are ‘not only wonderfully escapist but also fantastically chunky so they would help me while away the hours.’ Agreed! She would also take a really good nail-biting thriller: ‘I’m desperate to read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, or the latest by Lee Child, Linwood Barclay or Lisa Gardner, to keep my mind sharp as I puzzle over how to escape from the island.’ And finally, Sherise would have to take the complete set of Anne of Green Gables novels, in case ‘I never escape and I need something I can read again and again…and again…and again…’ So there we have it, a fine selection of books in the event of being stranded on a desert island (if you don’t have an e-reader, that is…) Take your pick!

Headliners choose their favourite summer reads

BLOG: ESCAPE WITH THESE SUMMER READS

The Wrong Knickers by Bryony Gordon 'I think The Wrong Knickers would be my perfect beach read. Totally relatable and absolutely hilarious, it’s the perfect book for a busy day of tanning – I can just picture thousands of women all along the Marbella shoreline spitting out their holiday cocktails with laughter.' Holly Harris, Non-Fiction Editorial Summer House with a Swimming Pool by Herman Koch 'If you found Herman Koch's The Dinner an addictive yet uncomfortable read, wait until you read this! A book that draws on obsession, guilt, paranoia and asks the toughest ‘What would you do?’ question you can imagine. I guarantee you'll finish this in one sitting by the pool as the protagonist’s world slowly collapses around him. A gem of a read.' Beau Merchant, Marketing The Oyster Catcher by Jo Thomas 'I have two absolute must-reads this summer, the first of which is The Oyster Catcher by Jo Thomas. When Fiona Clutterbuck finds herself stranded in a remote village along the west coast of Ireland, utterly alone having being jilted at altar, things seem just about as bad as they can possibly get. But chance has it that the mysterious and somewhat infamous local oyster farmer is in desperate need of an assistant. Fi throws herself into the role and what follows is an utterly uplifting, life-affirming story filled with warmth, laughter, tears and a romance that will sweep you away. I promise that The Oyster Catcher will capture your heart this summer!' Poppy Does Paris by Nicola Doherty 'My second summer pick has to be Poppy Does Paris – an irresistible e-short from Nicola Doherty which marks the beginning of her fabulous new digital Girls on Tour series. Think deliciously Parisian fun, flair, food and fashion. Brilliantly escapist, laugh-out-loud funny and a romance for you to really root for, Poppy Does Paris is everything that you look for in a summer read. It will leave you dying for your own holiday and longing for the next in the series … so watch out!' Christina Demosthenous, Fiction Editorial Mr Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt 'This impeccable debut novel will introduce you to the most fascinating character you’ll encounter for a long time. Mr Chartwell is big, he’s black and he’s furry. Mr Chartwell is a dog. He can stand upright, he can talk, drink tea from a china cup and bathe himself (though it is easier if you help him). This book will furrow your brow and make the corners of your eyes crease, it will make you feel brave and it will fascinate you. This is no ordinary story, it is no ordinary summer read. Hunt’s writing is mesmerising, every page has a sentence I wish I had crafted and, now that I think about it, the only thing that might have made this book better would have been to read it on a beach.' Darcy Nicholson, Fiction Editorial The Disappearance of Emily Marr by Louise Candlish. 'My summer read is The Disappearance of Emily Marr by Louise Candlish. Louise is one of my favourite authors and I have been pressing copies of her books into the hands of friends to take on holiday for years. The Disappearance of Emily Marr is no exception – it is addictive and full of intrigue. Mix that with the irresistibly gorgeous setting of Il de Ré, which Louise so vividly describes, and you have a perfect suspenseful summer read with a twist I defy anyone to see coming. The plot and characters will stay with you long after you have left the beach.' Fran Gough, Publicity The Proposal byTasmina Perry 'My favourite read for this summer is Tasmina Perry’s new paperback The Proposal. Set in modern-day Manhattan but also taking you back to the 1950s debutante era, this is a magical and brilliantly escapist book which kept me guessing until the very end! Perfect to get absorbed in on a hot summer’s day!' Laura Ricchetti, Sales The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson 'This quirky book is a great summer read. Following in the style of The 100 Year Old Man, it tells the tale of Nombeko Mayeki and her unusual journey through life, from her upbringing as a latrine worker in Soweto, to receiving a small fortune in diamonds (through rather unorthodox means) and becoming friends with (unsuprisingly) the king of Sweden! Over the decades her luck and location constantly changes, and her bizarre adventures, eccentric friends and the ridiculous plot make this book a fun and breezy summer read which keeps you guessing and asking 'whatever next?' until the very end.' Bekki Guyatt, Creative With such a variety of stunning escapist reads here, hopefully you can indulge in one or two of them this summer!

Headline

The Silent Wife

A.S.A. Harrison
Authors:
A.S.A. Harrison

The New York Times bestsellerHaving nothing left to lose changes everything.Todd and Jodie have been together for more than twenty years. They are both aware their world is in crisis, though neither is willing to admit it. Todd is living a dual existence, while Jodie is living in denial. But she also likes to settle scores. When it becomes clear their affluent Chicago lifestyle could disintegrate at any moment, Jodie knows everything is at stake. It's only now she will discover just how much she's truly capable of...Shocking and compelling in equal measure, THE SILENT WIFE is a chilling portrayal of two people in turmoil and the lengths they will go to in order to protect themselves.

Natalie Young

Natalie Young was born in 1976. She studied English at Bristol University and published her first novel, We All Ran Into the Sunlight, in 2011 while working as the Arts and Books Editor of Prospect Magazine. For several years before that she worked on The Times and contributed regularly to the Boo...

Headline

The Sun & the Moon & the Rolling Stones

Rich Cohen
Authors:
Rich Cohen

Rich Cohen enters the Stones epic as a young journalist on the road with the band and quickly falls under their sway - privy to the jokes, the camaraderie, the bitchiness, the hard living. Inspired by a lifelong appreciation of the music that borders on obsession, Cohen's chronicle of the band is informed by the rigorous views of a kid who grew up on the music and for whom the Stones will always be the greatest rock 'n' roll band of all time.This is a non-fiction book that reads like a novel filled with the greatest musicians, agents and artists of the most indelible age in pop culture. It's a book only Rich, with his unique access, experience and love of the band could write.

Nick Cutter, author of THE TROOP, on his horror influences

Old-School Horror

I was into the splatterpunk movement, sought out the boldest and the most extreme horror I could lay my hands on. It was always a treat to ferret out some nasty piece of work by David J Schow or Ed Lee or Jack Ketchum – or even Roald Dahl or Piers Anthony. Filmwise, I followed the same line. My friends and I would head to a huge video store (remember those?) in our town, the sort of place run by high school dropouts who resembled roadies-in-training and who could be counted on to order some of the weirdest films to fill the shelves. It was there that I rented the entire filmography of my country’s pre-eminent horror-meister, David Cronenberg; my horror education continued under John Carpenter, Brian Yuzna, Peter Jackson’s early work, Italian schlocksters such as Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento and Mario Bava, George A Romero, the trippy horror of David Lynch … point being, it had to be extreme. That was the aesthetic me and my buddies dug. If the movie felt as if it had been made by a pack of escaped mental patients, we’d love it. If fake blood ran by the bucketful, so much the better. If it was a story about an old mansion in the hills where the residents were driven slowly insane by mincing ghosts, no, we likely weren’t into that … if the ghosts wielded chainsaws, however, you might’ve gotten a bite from us. I would like any potential readers to understand that in relation to my book, The Troop. It’s important, I think, for readers to know where a writer comes from and what has influenced his or her tastes when it comes to their own work. As such, it would be unfair and uncool to give anyone the impression that The Troop wasn’t written in the same vein of the writers and directors mentioned above. It’s an adrenal, nasty, rattlesnake-mean piece of work. There ain’t no blowsy ghosts drifting through scarlet-lit hallways in this book (not that there’s anything the matter with ghosts!). There ain’t no shimmery vampires, either. This is old-school, 80’s-vintage, take-no-prisoners, fireballin’ horror. It’s the literary equivalent of grain alcohol: cheap, 90-proof rotgut, and it’ll burn all the way down. That’s what I grew up to reading and it’s what I decided to serve up to readers with The Troop, raw and bloody and on the hoof. I hope you enjoy it, but take my advice and don’t read it on a full stomach. THE TROOP is published on 25th February 2014.

Chapter Sampler

EBOOK OF THE MONTH

Read an exclusive preview of Stephan Talty's BLACK IRISH, which is out now in paperback and ebook.

THE HEIST

Our ebook of the month is THE HEIST, the first adventure in an electrifying new series from Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg.

A.S.A. Harrison

A.S.A. Harrison published four non-fiction books before writing her first novel, THE SILENT WIFE. Rave early reviews for the novel quickly suggested that it would become a success, but very sadly Harrison died shortly before publication. THE SILENT WIFE became a long-running bestseller in the author's native Canada, in the UK, the USA and around the world.

Posted by Emily Kitchin, Editorial

Blog: Eowyn Ivey wins at the National Book Awards

Here’s a photo of Eowyn celebrating her deserved success with her publicist Sam ‘the brains behind Snow Day’ Eades. We were also delighted to see Victoria Hislop shortlisted in the Popular Fiction Book of the Year category for THE THREAD, and to see Tanya Byrne shortlisted in the New Writers of the Year category for HEART-SHAPED BRUISE. The categories were won respectively by author E.L. James (FIFTY SHADES OF GREY) and Rachel Joyce (THE PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY). A bewitching tale of heartbreak and hope set in 1920s Alaska, THE SNOW CHILD was a bestseller on hardback publication, and went on to establish itself as one of the key literary debuts of 2012, and was a Richard and Judy Bookclub pick. The Times hailed it as a ‘stunning first novel,’ and Marie Claire has described it as ‘magical and heartbreaking’.

Natalie Young

Natalie Young was born in 1976. She studied English at Bristol University and published her first novel, We All Ran Into the Sunlight, in 2011 while working as the Arts and Books Editor of Prospect Magazine. For several years before that she worked on The Times and contributed regularly to the Books section and to the Saturday Review. She has lived in France, Italy and Australia. She currently lives in London with her two children.

Maggie speaks of her novels, inspirations, and more

Read an interview with Maggie O'Farrell

1. Was your childhood ambition always to be a writer? If not, what inspired you to start writing? It was. I’ve no idea where the impulse sprang from but I can’t remember life without it. 2. How long have you been writing? I have a very clear memory of struggling with a story when I was about four or five. I asked my mother if she would write it for me and her reply made a huge impression on me. She said, ‘But if I wrote it it would be my story, not yours.’ It was a very astute answer, I think, as it spurred me to try harder. I’ve kept a diary since I was about nine and wrote stories during my teens. At university and in my early twenties I attended poetry classes, where I was taught by Jo Shapcott and then Michael Donaghy. These had a huge effect on my writing, forcing me to economise, to make each word pull its weight. I was 24 when I started writing what would eventually become my first novel, After You’d Gone. 3. What do you enjoy most about writing? I love the solitude and the secrecy of it - as well as the escapism. 4. Which writers do you admire? Dead ones: Charlotte Bronte, RL Stevenson, George Eliot, Edith Wharton, Leo Tolstoy, Anthony Burgess, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Molly Keane, James Hogg, Angela Carter, Virginia Woolf. Alive ones: Margaret Atwood, Philip Roth, JM Coetzee, Michele Roberts, Ali Smith, Kate Atkinson, David Mitchell, Colum McCann, Peter Carey, Jeanette Winterson, William Boyd. 5. Which authors have influenced your writing the most and why? That’s a hard question. There are too many of them. The simplest answer would be, initially, Charlotte Bronte, Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Albert Camus. I read them in my teens; your skin is at its thinnest then and you are at your most porous. What you read then will affect you for the rest of your life and I fell for Jane Eyre and The Yellow Wallpaper and The Outsider: they changed the way I looked at the world and my concept of what fiction could do. More recently, I’ve been entranced by Margaret Atwood, Virginia Woolf, Tolstoy, Edith Wharton, Angela Carter. If I like a book I might read it several times and with each read you find something different. There are books I will study. I’ve been poring over Mrs Dalloway in the last few months, trying to unpick the prose and the structure, in an attempt to work out how Woolf does it. It’s almost impossible, as it’s so brilliantly and tightly written. 6. What was the last good book you read? I’ve just finished Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, her interpretation of the Odysseus myth. I loved it as it always bothered me that Penelope seemed so uncomplaining and patient in the face of her husband’s extended absence and persistant infidelity. 7. To what extent has your life experience influenced your writing? I don’t use my life in my novels, or not directly. I would never write autobiographically as I tend to write as an alternative to my life, not a repetition or imitation of it. But inevitably there are elements of it that come into my books, in different forms. I think all fiction is a patchwork of things you’ve made up, things you’ve borrowed or heard or read somewhere, and things you’ve translated from life. 8. Do you always know how your books will end before you start writing? No, not at all and that’s part of the pleasure. I have a quote by Picasso beside my desk: ‘If you know exactly what you are going to do, what is the point of doing it?’ I couldn’t imagine anything worse than planning every last detail of a book and then spending the next two or three years working through that plan. I enjoy the way your ideas for a book mutate and alter as you go along. I start – sometimes at the beginning, sometimes in the middle – often without any idea how it will end. And if I do begin with an image for the ending in mind usually by the time I get to the end it’s all changed. 9. What inspired your new novel The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox? It is a novel I’ve wanted to write for a long time. I first had the idea – of a woman who is incarcerated in an asylum for a lifetime – fifteen years ago. I tried to write it then, as my first novel, but it didn’t work and I ended up abandoning it to write After You’d Gone instead. This was in the mid nineties, after Thatcher’s Care in the Community Act, when psychiatric hospitals were being closed down and patients turfed out. There were a lot of stories flying around at that time of people, particularly women, like Esme who had been put away for reasons of immorality and left to rot. A friend told me about his grandmother’s cousin, who had just died in an asylum, having been put there in her early twenties for “eloping with a legal clerk”. The idea never went away and I gradually amassed more and more stories and examples of girls who had been committed in the early Twentieth century for little more that being disobedient or incalcitrant. When you start to dig a little deeper, into case notes and medical reports, the findings are terrifying. I’ve always been interested in the idea of what happens to the same type of woman – uncompromising, unconventional, refusing to fit into the domestic role society has set out for her – at different times in history. Centuries ago, she might have been condemned as a witch but as recently as sixty years ago she might have been deemed insane and committed to an asylum. 10. How is your new novel different from the previous ones? It feels very different to me, in lots of way. It’s partly historical as most of the book takes place in 1930s Edinburgh and colonial India. I think it’s tighter than the others: there are only three main characters, whereas the others have tended to be more wide-ranging. I did a great deal more research for it, on psychiatric practices and institutions, on life and society in the 1930s.

Maggie speaks of her novels, inspirations, and more

Read an interview with Maggie O'Farrell

1. Was your childhood ambition always to be a writer? If not, what inspired you to start writing? It was. I’ve no idea where the impulse sprang from but I can’t remember life without it. 2. How long have you been writing? I have a very clear memory of struggling with a story when I was about four or five. I asked my mother if she would write it for me and her reply made a huge impression on me. She said, ‘But if I wrote it it would be my story, not yours.’ It was a very astute answer, I think, as it spurred me to try harder. I’ve kept a diary since I was about nine and wrote stories during my teens. At university and in my early twenties I attended poetry classes, where I was taught by Jo Shapcott and then Michael Donaghy. These had a huge effect on my writing, forcing me to economise, to make each word pull its weight. I was 24 when I started writing what would eventually become my first novel, After You’d Gone. 3. What do you enjoy most about writing? I love the solitude and the secrecy of it - as well as the escapism. 4. Which writers do you admire? Dead ones: Charlotte Bronte, RL Stevenson, George Eliot, Edith Wharton, Leo Tolstoy, Anthony Burgess, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Molly Keane, James Hogg, Angela Carter, Virginia Woolf. Alive ones: Margaret Atwood, Philip Roth, JM Coetzee, Michele Roberts, Ali Smith, Kate Atkinson, David Mitchell, Colum McCann, Peter Carey, Jeanette Winterson, William Boyd. 5. Which authors have influenced your writing the most and why? That’s a hard question. There are too many of them. The simplest answer would be, initially, Charlotte Bronte, Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Albert Camus. I read them in my teens; your skin is at its thinnest then and you are at your most porous. What you read then will affect you for the rest of your life and I fell for Jane Eyre and The Yellow Wallpaper and The Outsider: they changed the way I looked at the world and my concept of what fiction could do. More recently, I’ve been entranced by Margaret Atwood, Virginia Woolf, Tolstoy, Edith Wharton, Angela Carter. If I like a book I might read it several times and with each read you find something different. There are books I will study. I’ve been poring over Mrs Dalloway in the last few months, trying to unpick the prose and the structure, in an attempt to work out how Woolf does it. It’s almost impossible, as it’s so brilliantly and tightly written. 6. What was the last good book you read? I’ve just finished Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, her interpretation of the Odysseus myth. I loved it as it always bothered me that Penelope seemed so uncomplaining and patient in the face of her husband’s extended absence and persistant infidelity. 7. To what extent has your life experience influenced your writing? I don’t use my life in my novels, or not directly. I would never write autobiographically as I tend to write as an alternative to my life, not a repetition or imitation of it. But inevitably there are elements of it that come into my books, in different forms. I think all fiction is a patchwork of things you’ve made up, things you’ve borrowed or heard or read somewhere, and things you’ve translated from life. 8. Do you always know how your books will end before you start writing? No, not at all and that’s part of the pleasure. I have a quote by Picasso beside my desk: ‘If you know exactly what you are going to do, what is the point of doing it?’ I couldn’t imagine anything worse than planning every last detail of a book and then spending the next two or three years working through that plan. I enjoy the way your ideas for a book mutate and alter as you go along. I start – sometimes at the beginning, sometimes in the middle – often without any idea how it will end. And if I do begin with an image for the ending in mind usually by the time I get to the end it’s all changed. 9. What inspired your new novel The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox? It is a novel I’ve wanted to write for a long time. I first had the idea – of a woman who is incarcerated in an asylum for a lifetime – fifteen years ago. I tried to write it then, as my first novel, but it didn’t work and I ended up abandoning it to write After You’d Gone instead. This was in the mid nineties, after Thatcher’s Care in the Community Act, when psychiatric hospitals were being closed down and patients turfed out. There were a lot of stories flying around at that time of people, particularly women, like Esme who had been put away for reasons of immorality and left to rot. A friend told me about his grandmother’s cousin, who had just died in an asylum, having been put there in her early twenties for “eloping with a legal clerk”. The idea never went away and I gradually amassed more and more stories and examples of girls who had been committed in the early Twentieth century for little more that being disobedient or incalcitrant. When you start to dig a little deeper, into case notes and medical reports, the findings are terrifying. I’ve always been interested in the idea of what happens to the same type of woman – uncompromising, unconventional, refusing to fit into the domestic role society has set out for her – at different times in history. Centuries ago, she might have been condemned as a witch but as recently as sixty years ago she might have been deemed insane and committed to an asylum. 10. How is your new novel different from the previous ones? It feels very different to me, in lots of way. It’s partly historical as most of the book takes place in 1930s Edinburgh and colonial India. I think it’s tighter than the others: there are only three main characters, whereas the others have tended to be more wide-ranging. I did a great deal more research for it, on psychiatric practices and institutions, on life and society in the 1930s.

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Natalie Young

Find out more about the author of the deliciously subversive Season To Taste, out now

Website

Natalie Young

Find out more about the author of the deliciously subversive Season To Taste, out now

Her novels, inspirations and more

An interview with Maggie O'Farrell

Click here to read an interview with Maggie O'Farrell, where she talks about her novels, inspirations and more.