Natalie Young - Season to Taste or How to Eat Your Husband - Headline
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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

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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 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.

  • Other details

  • ISBN: 9781472209351
  • Publication date: 16 Jan 2014
  • Page count: 288
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
Stomach-churning and terrific — The Times
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
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!

Posted by Mary-Anne Harrington, Editorial

Blog: Summer Reads

Though the sun may only now be peeking through the clouds, we at Tinder Press have been counting down to summer, or at least the publication of Maggie O’Farrell’s INSTRUCTIONS FOR HEATWAVE, for many weeks now. But which are the summer reads that have made us the readers we are today – we asked our team to tell us more about the books that spell ‘summer’ to them.

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.

Read a thrilling extract from the first novel in the Renegade Angels series here!

A TOUCH OF CRIMSON by Sylvia Day

Excerpt from A TOUCH OF CRIMSON by Sylvia Day Contains mature content not suitable for younger readers. Lindsay stirred from her dreams before she was ready. Part of her mind still clung to sleep, longing for another touch of wickedly knowledgeable hands, another whisper of firm lips across her throat, another brush of silky white and crimson wings… Her eyes opened on a soundless gasp, her heart racing and her skin hot. She was painfully aroused, her thoughts filled with flame blue eyes and raw, sexual words spoken in a purring voice of sin. Scrubbing a hand over her face, she kicked the covers off and stared at the exposed wood beams above her head. Her future had taken a monumental detour when she’d caught Adrian Mitchell’s eye. Her life had been so black and white before—get up, go to work, come home, and in between kill anything that set off alarm bells. Now everything was so complicated. Lindsay rolled out of bed and crossed the massive bedroom to a private bath that was the size of her old apartment back home. There was a fireplace by the bathtub and a stunning mosaic in a shower that had six showerheads. She’d never even stayed in a hotel as luxurious, yet she felt comfortable and at ease. Despite the opulence, the overall effect was soothing. The soft yellow and blue palette kept the space light and airy, a look she gravitated to because her life could be so dark. After washing her face and brushing her teeth, she returned to the bedroom and found her gaze drawn to the unadorned wall of windows facing the west. The view was of rocky hills covered in dry native brush. The vista inspired feelings of remoteness and isolation, but she knew the city wasn’t far away. She dressed, pulling on a pair of yoga pants and a ribbed tank top. “Don’t get used to this,” she warned herself, even as she walked toward the windows. As she neared, the huge center pane slid leisurely to one side, opening the way for her to step out onto the wide deck. The morning air was cool and crisp, luring her outside. Clutching the wood railing in a white-knuckled grip, she took a deep breath and absorbed the enormity of her change in circumstance. The sun rose at her back and a soft breeze buffeted her from the front. Below, two more tiers of the house jutted over a steep craggy drop, but she couldn’t look for more than a moment, her fear of heights kicking in with a vengeance. The rush of anxiety startled her. Not because she was feeling it, but because she realized she hadn’t been feeling it until now. All her life, she’d felt rushed and agitated. The sensation was magnified by proximity to nasty creatures, but it was always thrumming inside her regardless. The expectation that she was waiting for some¬thing to happen, waiting for the other shoe to drop, had been a part of her existence forever. And now it was gone, leaving behind an unfamiliar but welcome calm. Whatever might happen next, right now—at this moment—she felt grounded and peaceful. To make it even better, she was actually enjoying the serenity. As she backtracked away from the edge, a large shadow swept across her back and raced along the railing. She glanced up. Sucking in a sharp breath, Lindsay turned completely around. The sky was filled with angels. Against the pale pink and gray morning, they dipped and spun in unique, mesmerizing dances. At least a dozen, maybe more, gliding around each other with such grace and skill. Their wingspans were enormous, their bodies so sleek and poised. They were too powerful and athletic…too lethal to inspire piousness, but they stirred reverence nevertheless. She moved around the corner of the house, discovering that the deck widened extensively at the rear, forming a landing area of sorts. Awestruck and faintly afraid, she remembered to breathe only when her lungs burned. She’d thought she was in over her head with Adrian when he was just a man. Now— He stood out even among angels. His pearlescent wings glimmered in the rising sun, the crimson tips streaking across the horizon as he picked up speed. He shot upward like a bullet, then plummeted straight down, spinning in a blur of blood red and alabaster. “I think he’s trying to impress you.” Lindsay dragged her gaze away. She found Damien standing beside her, his hands on his hips and his attention on the aerial acrobatics taking place above them. He was gorgeous: long and sculpted, with his dark brown hair cut short, and sleek, framing eyes nearly as blue as Adrian’s. But unlike Adrian, there was a stillness about him—like an ocean becalmed. His wings were on display, which she suspected was an intimidation tactic. They were gray with white tips, reminding her of a stormy sky. Framing his smooth ivory skin, they created the effect of a classical marble statue brought to life. “It’s working,” she confessed. “I am impressed. But don’t tell him I said that.” A surge of air and the flap of great wings preceded Adrian’s landing in front of her. His feet hit the deck almost silently, something she barely registered because he was bare-chested and barefoot. Holy shit. Wearing only loose black pants and those glorious wings, his luscious body was on full display. Rich olive skin stretched taut over hard, lean muscle. Her hands ached to stroke his beautifully defined biceps and pectorals; her mouth watered with the desire to lick the fine line of hair bisecting his ridged abdomen. As real as her dream had felt, the reality of him was far more devastating. He’d been crafted by a master hand and honed by battle, and she couldn’t stop her mind from translating all that raw masculinity into hot sexual fantasy. The sheer force of his sex appeal was enough to rock her back on her heels and shorten her breath. “Good morning,” he greeted her, with that low resonance in his voice that damn near curled her toes. “Did you sleep well?”

THE HEIST

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

TOUCH AND GO

The Sunday Times top ten bestseller Lisa Gardner's latest thriller, TOUCH AND GO, is out now in paperback. Here's an exclusive look at chapter one to whet your appetite...

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.

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.

Website

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.

Posted by Leah Woodburn, Editorial

Blog: Our First Blog Post!

Welcome! We’re very excited that we now have somewhere to air our news and views on all things publishing and beyond. Think of it as a work in progress for now: it will, before we know it, be a slick and well-oiled machine. Until then, be kind…

Little Black Dress

Hide Your Eyes

Alison Gaylin

Samatha Leiffer has had enough trouble in her life. So why does it still insist on following her around? Accidentally witnessing two people dump an ominous-looking chest into the Hudson, Samantha has a horrible, stomach-churning feeling about its contents. Not one to let a murder pass by unsolved, Samantha sets out to get to the bottom of the mystery, aided by the very hot and hardline homicide detective, John Krull. It's not long before Sam finds herself looking for some very dark scary figures in New York, who as it happens, just might be looking for her too...

By Clemency Burton-Hill

New York, New York

Being a freelance writer has its upsides and its down; but an indisputable up is the ability to choose one’s office daily. As I write, I am sitting in a small café on Hudson and Charles, spotted on a whim as I crossed over the street from Seventh Avenue. It boasts walls of exposed old brick and studiedly shabby wooden furniture; a vinyl record of jazz turns on a gramophone in the corner. October sunlight slants lazily across the street and slinks in through the café windows, gilding a wall of analogue photographs depicting the proprietor’s great-grandparents in curling sepia. It is late 2012; the New York headquarters of some of the twenty-first-century’s most cutting-edge technology companies are in the vicinity; but with this chipped mug of coffee in my hands here and that Charlie Parker LP spinning there, I could be occupying the sort of contemplative corner spot that any number of human characters in New York may have occupied before me. Other years, other faces, other times. People sometimes complain that Greenwich Village, like much in Manhattan, has “altered beyond recognition” and I’m sure in many ways it has – it is in the very nature of this town; the very name of this town, to enshrine the possibility of change. But I also know, I feel intuitively, that there is still in these streets the unwavering spirit of the old city, catering generously and eternally to the needs of those whose hearts are open, curious and yearning. There’s no place like this on earth. In other words, New York’s still got it. **** When I turned eighteen, I was given a subscription to the New Yorker for my birthday. A decade later, almost to the day, I moved to Manhattan and for the first few months I lived here, the simplest and most wondrous of the inestimable gifts this city bestows seemed to be this: that I could open those storied pages, flip to Goings On About Town, and, if I so desired, “go on about town”. I could read about a jazz gig, a book reading, a film opening, a symphony or rock concert, an opera, a play, a new restaurant and, bank balance permitting, experience it that same night. Back in my hometown of London – itself a city not without wonder – reading the Goings On section of the New Yorker became a weekly act of masochism, yielding predictable twists of almost palpable longing. To read about what was happening that same night across the Atlantic; to dream, to imagine, but to only be able to imagine – to not be in New York was sometimes too much to bear. Yet this is a city that has always been created by the imagination; a metropolis lovingly constructed in ink and paper and celluloid and dreams as much as it is by bricks and mortar, steel and glass. To borrow an insight from that master observer of New York, E. B. White, there are roughly three New Yorks: that of the natives, that of the commuters, and that of the settlers. That notion was true when White wrote “Here is New York” in 1948, and it strikes me as being resoundingly true today. Like him, I believe that the third New York will always be the most important, the most vital, because it is the one whose foundations are laid first in the minds of human beings born and living elsewhere – those for whom New York City is the ultimate destination. When the settler-dreamers hit the bedrock, having crossed bodies of water, been coughed up through tubes or tunnels or deposited by planes, it is up to them – to us – to turn those dreams into something resembling reality. And because New York has a unique capacity to absorb whatever is thrown at it and whomever arrives on its shores, they invariably do play their own unique part in shaping what happens next in the mighty pageant that is life here. Although, not always: New York also spits out more dejected and disappointed souls than any other city on earth. We transplanted “New Yorkers” must also live with the lurking shadow of that possibility every day. **** The music fades, the needle lifts, and a bearded barista with complicated tattoos on his forearms whom I’d wager lives in Brooklyn goes to flip the record to its B-Side. Which reminds me of a startling fact: the first jazz disc ever to be cut in the world was cut in New York. Ever in the world! It was Nick La Rocca’s Original Dixieland Jazz Band with “Livery Stable Blues”, in early 1917. But I plucked that particular “first” from the sky; really it’s not so startling – New York is a city of firsts. A city of human beings calmly doing things that will forever alter the direction of how those things can be done. From sculptors to subway contractors; from traders of sundries to traders of derivatives; from writers of music to writers of insurance to writers of code. Right now, I wonder, how many blocks am I from wonder? A short stroll in any direction and I might run into a movie crew shooting on a corner of Bleecker whose young director, as yet unknown, will win an Oscar next year; I might walk past an innocuous office building on Houston in which employees at a start-up whose name we’ve never heard of are busy inventing the next game-changing technology that we will soon all take for granted; I may glance at construction workers on a downtown skyscraper site whose silhouette will one day be a byword, a metaphor, a symbol for something the whole world understands – or maybe will just be a building so beautiful it makes people weep. This guy sitting next to me, meanwhile, tapping away on his laptop; for all I know he could be writing the world’s next Booker-winning novel. This is New York. Since arriving at this café, moreover, I have seen through these sunlit windows every sort of human face pass along Hudson Street. Even here, in this achingly well-heeled neighborhood where a brownstone townhouse around the corner on Perry is apparently on the market at fifteen million dollars (“What the hell – I’ll take two!”) I have seen faces old and young; faces black and brown and pink and white and many shades of grey. Faces beautiful and completely unmemorable; faces brimful of life; faces seemingly close to death. Perhaps these faces come from Puerto Rico, from Sierra Leone, from Mexico, England, Haiti, Cuba, Latvia, Kenya, Russia, Ireland or Italy. Perhaps from China, Tunisia, Wales, India, Jamaica, New Zealand, Greece or Poland. Perhaps they were born in a gleaming hospital uptown, or in a railroad apartment in an outer borough; perhaps they were born half way around the world. But here in New York they are. And as White memorably observed: “the collision and the intermingling of these millions of foreign-born people representing so many races and creeds make New York a permanent exhibit of the phenomenon of one world.” The phenomenon of one world. We know all this, of course. New York as a racial melting pot, a magnet for all comers, a global crucible of creativity: all of this has been said in myriad ways, by multitudes and over many years. But just as New York has every type of potential racial problem and for the most part enjoys a continuing and frankly miraculous city-wide tolerance, an “inviolate truce” between peoples, what astounds me is how the things we know about the city – the clichés and stereotypes, the myths and legends – go on being true, and indeed, get truer. Why? How? How do you work, New York? How are you even plausible? **** When you tell people you live in New York, I have found, reactions generally divide into those whose eyes widen with envy and those who wrinkle their brows in horror – or, worse, pity. “Oh no,” they shake their head, “I could never live there – so noisy, so dirty, so smelly. And why does everyone have to be so unbelievably rude?” There are also those who grumble that New York has somehow lost its character; been homogenised and commercialised and overrun by identical shops, adverts and tourists who genuinely appear to think queuing outside Abercrombie & Fitch a valid use of time. Well, yes. Surely Broadway has its grim bits; clearly one does well to avoid Times Square. Obviously you ignore the horse-and-cart guys in Central Park and of course you don’t eat at Olive Garden or wait forty-five minutes for a Magnolia Bakery cupcake. And of course New York is smelly and dirty and busy and crowded. If White thought in 1948 that “the normal frustrations of modern life are here multiplied and amplified” he would possibly be dismayed (but not surprised) to discover that more than half a century on there is still “not enough air and not enough light, and there is usually either too much heat or too little”. But in general, I believe, New York still has more life and curiosity and character in a single city block than even – dare I say it – London. And I’m a born and bred London girl who once suspected that if you were to cut my veins I would bleed the Thames. (I have also lived in Paris, and - hit me over the head with a baguette – I’m afraid that glorious capital does not compare either.) For more than three years, for example, my local Subway stop has been Grand Central. Rushing across the Main Concourse before I head underground to catch a train, I try always to look up at the ceiling and promise myself I will never, ever take such a sight for granted. When back in London, equally, I remind myself not to sigh in inevitable disappointment when I board the Piccadilly Line to go home. It’s a grossly unfair comparison, of course: how could poor old Hammersmith, my local Tube, ever hope to win against those majestic cathedral glories on 42nd Street? But that’s the point, isn’t it? **** In January 2012, the population of the entire New York City metropolitan area hit nineteen million people. It can be lonely here; sometimes unutterably so: a teeming place of human isolation and even desperation. By Grand Central Station I have indeed sat down and wept. But as White also captured brilliantly: “Although New York often imparts a feeling of great forlornness or forsakenness… you always feel that either by shifting your location ten blocks or by reducing your fortune by five dollars you can experience rejuvenation.” Reducing one’s fortune by five dollars here, by the way, remains the easiest damn thing in the world. Another cup of coffee at this very café, especially if accompanied by one of those artisanal sea-salt cookies they bake downstairs, will barely leave me change from twice that. In a doorway down the street, some wit has stuck a poster referencing the iconic slogan: I CAN’T AFFORD TO  NY. It has probably never been more difficult or more expensive to live in New York. Yet I and so many others would not be anywhere else in the world. Shifting my location, I will take my five bucks and get another coffee at some other place, ten blocks away, twenty, or who knows where. It doesn’t matter where I go: I open the door and the universe awaits. CLEMENCY BURTON-HIL, NEW YORK CITY, OCTOBER 2012

THE DEAD GROUND

THE DEAD GROUND is the latest chilling thriller from the brilliant Claire McGowan, author of THE LOST. Featuring the forensic psychologist Paula Maguire, this isn't one for the faint-hearted, as this gripping extract shows..