More Sorrow than Bliss

A review of "Sorrow and Bliss" by Meg Mason Sorrow and Bliss is one of those much-touted novels that seem to gain traction in the Spring so that many people select them as one of their Summer holiday reads. Then you get tweets and Instagram posts from influencers saying how wonderful it was, to which in their turn, in the time -honoured, strange, traditions of twitter, followers gush back, agreeing how amazing it was and the churn of interest continues. Good marketing, I suppose. And, of course, I wouldn’t be complaining if one of my books was at the centre of such a fabricated whirlwind of interest. But there’s more than sour grapes to this less than enthusiastic review. Many of these books represent a triumph of marketing over substance and I’m afraid Sorrow and Bliss is another that disappoints. It's targeted at women readers so single-mindedly that it might as well have…

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Wolves in Winter – Joan Aiken’s enduring legacy, part 1.

Right at the beginning of my first job as an English teacher, in South London in 1983, I was shown where the Department book cupboard was and told to have a rummage. This was cutting edge preparation back in the Eighties, when it was assumed that new teachers might have some ideas of their own about what to teach and how to teach it. I can still remember using that oh so familiar standard issue ILEA master key to gain entrance to this Aladdin’s cave of treasures. A gloomy, cavernous store hung with the smell of dust, chalk and cleaning fluids, it revealed its secrets fitfully as the neon strip light coughed into life, taking several pings before flooding the area with dazzling white light. I shut the door behind me. In the glare, the rows and piles of books covered all four walls and most of the floor. Later in my career,…

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The Watcher and The Friend – published on June 11th!

What I've been reading recently is endless proofs of my first novel for children, "The Watcher and The Friend". And finally, publication day is approaching, with June 11th confirmed as the official launch date. It's a very exciting prospect and one for which I must offer some thanks to those who have played a big part in the book's journey. Firstly to Richard Mayers, whose patience and support were so important during the editing process. His skill and experience in suggesting changes were invaluable. Next, to my beta readers who generously gave their time to read an early version of the story. Once again, their perceptive comments, and their enthusiasm for the book, gave me extra impetus to complete the project. Finally, I must thank the students of Mayfield Grammar School in Gravesend, who were the unwitting participants in the book's first public outing. This is the time for my confession, as I…

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