Related to: 'Ghosts of Christmas Past'

Julie Sarkissian blogs about the problems facing the protagnist of her debut novel, DEAR LUCY

Something's Wrong With Lucy - But What?

Lucy is different – that much is clear. She speaks like a child, doesn’t recognize social boundaries, flies into rages, and treasures rotten food. Her cognition is impaired, her vocabulary is very limited and she cannot read or write. But what – precisely – is wrong with her is left up to the reader. Lucy is the protagonist of my novel, DEAR LUCY, and from the first sentence of the book I ever wrote it was obvious that Lucy was cognitively different. The way Lucy describes herself is as “missing too many words.” Her mother calls her “difficult.” Readers of early drafts of the book had a few theories as to Lucy’s condition; autism, Williams Syndrome, Down Syndrome. But Lucy’s mother has kept her from going to school and Lucy has never seen a doctor. So in the fictional reality of the book there is no official diagnosis. But as the novel progressed I wondered – should I have one? I was torn. If Lucy was presenting enough symptoms to point to a real condition, was I ignoring the obvious not to fold that condition into my development of her character? Was it insensitive of me to allude to aspects of certain real, life-altering conditions but not assign a specific condition to Lucy? I worried about appropriating aspects of serious conditions without treating those conditions with proper respect and acknowledgement. And though any clinical diagnosis would probably not be explicit in the novel, I wondered if I would be ignoring an opportunity to bring attention to a real disorder when people asked me about Lucy’s condition, the way The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-time did for autism. On the other hand, I had concerns that if I chose a diagnosis for Lucy, I would be ascribing to her qualities that she wouldn’t have otherwise presented. Lucy had her own will over my writing and over the novel. I didn’t want to yoke Lucy’s expression by keeping her behavior and abilities consistent with a clinical condition. Accuracy would also become a critical issue if Lucy’s condition was named. Ultimately I chose not to diagnose Lucy, though I worry the artistic freedom provided by that decision comes at the price of being judged for being too liberal with my treatment of cognitive disorders. Now that publication is a few months away, I am apprehensive of how my treatment of Lucy’s cognitive limitations will be judged. I have yet to talk to a reader who has a learning different child, or works with learning different people, and that conversation is one I will be honored, and not a bit anxious, to have.

Sceptre

Fell

Jenn Ashworth
Authors:
Jenn Ashworth

A haunting, mysterious tale imbued with the force of myth, by the award-winning author of A Kind of Intimacy. When Annette Clifford returns to her childhood home on the edge of Morecambe Bay, she despairs: the long-empty house is crumbling, undermined by two voracious sycamores. What she doesn't realise is that she's not alone: her arrival has woken the spirits of her parents, who anxiously watch over her, longing to make amends. Because as the past comes back to Jack and Netty, they begin to see the summer of 1963 clearly, when Netty was desperately ill and a stranger moved in. Charismatic, mercurial Timothy Richardson, with his seemingly miraculous powers of healing, who drew all their attention away from Annette... Now, they must try to draw another stranger towards her, one who can rescue her.Blurring the boundaries between the corporeal and spirit worlds and subtly echoing the myth of Baucis and Philemon, this is an eerily beautiful, evocative and highly original novel, which underlines the eternal potency of hope.

John Murray

The Hireling

L. P. Hartley
Authors:
L. P. Hartley

Overcome with grief at her husband's death, Lady Franklin, an eligible young widow, unburdens herself to Leadbitter - a gallant, hard-bitten ex-soldier who has invested his savings in the car he drives for hire - as he takes her on a series of journeys. He in turn beguiles her with stories of his non-existent wife and children, drawing her out of her self-absorption and weaving a dream-life with Lady Franklin at its heart. Half-hoping to make his dream come true, Leadbitter takes a bold, not to say reckless, step which costs him dearly, and brings these characters' tangled story to a dramatic and unexpected conclusion.

Sceptre

A Kind of Intimacy

Jenn Ashworth
Authors:
Jenn Ashworth

Annie is obese, lonely and hopeful. Armed with self-help books, her cat and a collection of cow-shaped milk jugs, she moves into her new home and sets about getting to know the neighbours, especially the man next door. She ignores her neighbour's inconvenient girlfriend, but it's not quite as easy for Annie to dismiss her own past. As Annie's murky history of violence, secrets and sexual mishaps catches up with her, she cannot see that she has done anything wrong. She's just doing what any good neighbour would do, after all...

John Murray

The Betrayal

L. P. Hartley
Authors:
L. P. Hartley

In The Betrayal, the sequel to The Brickfield, Richard Mardick, now an ageing novelist, is forced by circumstances to look back on the days of his boyhood and confesses to Denys Aspin, his young secretary and biographer-to-be, how Lucy's death has forever marred his life and distorted his inner peace. The consequences of this rash disclosure range from threats and blackmail to the entirely unpredictable reactions of Richard's friends.

John Murray

My Fellow Devils

L. P. Hartley
Authors:
L. P. Hartley

Margaret Pennefather is essentially a good person - too good, perhaps, for her own good. Her rash and hasty marriage to film star Colum McInnes, and his very different set of moral values, leads gradually and relentlessly to the utter destruction of their love and their marriage. Although she is only a nominal Protestant and he a very lax Roman Catholic, Margaret cannot escape the religious questionings implicit in their union. Her mental and spiritual struggles persist and gather momentum through all the disasters of her married life. Its outcome is the climax to a story that must surely rank as one of the most impressive L. P. Hartley has given us.

John Murray

The Boat

L. P. Hartley
Authors:
L. P. Hartley

Timothy Casson, a bachelor writer, is forced to return from a contented life in Venice to an English village. Taking a house by the river where he can pursue his passion for rowing, he has to do battle with the locals to overcome his isolation and feelings of incompleteness. This most complex of Hartley's novels examines the multiple layers of Casson's relationships with servants, local society and friends.

John Murray

A Perfect Woman

L. P. Hartley
Authors:
L. P. Hartley

Chartered accountant Harold Eastwood, conventionally minded, chances to meet Alec Goodrich on the train, travelling first-class with a third-class ticket. Alec is a best-selling novelist. He soon finds Harold's knowledge of income tax allowances useful and when Alec pays a visit to the accountant his wife, Isabel, who yearns for culture and literature, quickly takes up the fantasy to be his mistress. However, not she but Irma, the Austrian barmaid at the tavern, has caught Alec's wayward fancy . . .

Sceptre

The Friday Gospels

Jenn Ashworth
Authors:
Jenn Ashworth

It's Friday in the Leeke household, but this is no ordinary Friday: the Leekes are Lancastrian Mormons and tonight they will be welcoming back their son Gary from his two-year mission in Utah. His mother, Pauline, wants his homecoming to be perfect. Unfortunately, no one else seems to be following the script. In turn, the members of the family let us into their private thoughts and plans. There's teenage Jeannie, wrestling with a disastrous secret; her peculiar elder brother, Julian, who's plotting an exit according to his own warped logic; their father, Martin, dreaming of escape; and 'golden boy' Gary, who dreads his return. Then there's Pauline, who needs a doctor's help but won't ask for it. As the day progresses, a meltdown looms. Except that nothing goes according to anyone's plan, and the outcome is as unexpected as it is shocking. Laced with black humour and giving an unusual insight into the Mormon way of life, this is a superbly orchestrated and arresting tale of human folly and foibles and what counts in times of crisis.

John Murray

The Brickfield

L. P. Hartley
Authors:
L. P. Hartley
Sceptre

Cold Light

Jenn Ashworth
Authors:
Jenn Ashworth

I'm sitting on my couch, watching the local news. There's Chloe's parents, the mayor, the hangers on, all grouped round the pond for the ceremony. It's ten years since Chloe and Carl drowned, and they've finally chosen a memorial - a stupid summerhouse. The mayor has a spade decked out in pink and white ribbon, and he's started to dig.You can tell from their faces that something has gone wrong. But I'm the one who knows straightaway that the mayor has found a body. And I know who it is.This is the tale of three fourteen-year-old girls and a volatile combination of lies, jealousy and perversion that ends in tragedy. Except the tragedy is even darker and more tangled than their tight-knit community has been persuaded to believe.Blackly funny and with a surreal edge to its portrait of a northern English town, Jenn Ashworth's gripping novel captures the intensity of girls' friendships and the dangers they face in a predatory adult world they think they can handle. And it shows just how far that world is willing to let sentiment get in the way of the truth.

Anna Jacobs

Anna Jacobs grew up in Lancashire and emigrated to Australia, but still visits the UK regularly to see her family and do research, something she loves. She is addicted to writing and figures she'll have to live to be 120 at least to tell all the stories that keep popping up in her imagination and nagging her to write them down. She's also addicted to her own hero, to whom she's been happily married for many years.She is the bestselling author of over eighty novels and has been shortlisted for several awards, and Pride of Lancashire won the Australian Romantic Book of the Year Award in 2006.You can find out more on her website, www.annajacobs.com or on her Facebook page, www.facebook.com/Anna.Jacobs.Books.

Chrissie Manby

Chrissie Manby is the author of twenty five romantic comedies including A PROPER FAMILY HOLIDAY, THE MATCHBREAKER and SEVEN SUNNY DAYS. She has had several Sunday Times bestsellers and her novel about behaving badly after a break-up, GETTING OVER MR RIGHT, was nominated for the 2011 Melissa Nathan Award. Chrissie was raised in Gloucester, in the west of England, and now lives in London. Contrary to the popular conception of chick-lit writers, she is such a bad home-baker that her own father threatened to put her last creation on www.cakewrecks.com. She is, however, partial to white wine and shoes she can't walk in. You can follow her on Twitter @chrissiemanby, or visit her website www.chrissiemanby.co.uk to find out more.

David Attenborough

Sir David Attenborough is a broadcaster and naturalist whose television career is now in its seventh decade. After studying Natural Sciences at Cambridge and a brief stint in publishing, he joined the BBC in 1952 and spent ten years making documentary programmes of all kinds, including the Zoo Quest series. In 1965, he was appointed Controller of a new network, BBC2, and then, after four years became editorially responsible for both BBC1 and BBC2.After eight years of administration, he returned to programme-making to write and present a thirteen-part series, Life on Earth, which surveyed the evolutionary history of animals and plants. This was followed by many other series which, between them, surveyed almost every aspect of life on earth.

David Mitchell

David Mitchell is the author of the novels Ghostwritten, number9dream, Cloud Atlas, Black Swan Green, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, The Bone Clocks and Slade House. He has won the John Llewellyn Rhys, Geoffrey Faber Memorial and South Bank Show Literature Prizes, and been shortlisted twice for the Booker Prize. In 2003, David Mitchell was selected as one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists.

Elin Hilderbrand

Elin Hilderbrand grew up in Pennsylvania and is a graduate of the University of Iowa's Writers' Workshop, where she was a teaching/writing fellow. She now lives with her husband and their three children on Nantucket, Massachusetts, where her novels are set.You can follow Elin on Twitter @elinhilderbrand or find out more on her Facebook page www.facebook.com/ElinHilderbrand.

Fredrik Backman

Fredrik Backman is a Swedish blogger, columnist and author. His debut novel A MAN CALLED OVE was a number 1 bestseller across Scandinavia, has sold over one million copies worldwide, was a Richard & Judy summer read in the UK and an instant New York Times paperback bestseller, and has been made into an acclaimed film. Fredrik's subsequent novels, MY GRANDMOTHER SENDS HER REGARDS AND APOLOGISES and BRITT-MARIE WAS HERE, also went straight to number 1 in Sweden on publication.

Funmi Fetto

Funmi Fetto, a former beauty director of British Vogue and currently Contributing Beauty Editor and Columnist at the title, has over 15 years experience as a fashion and beauty journalist. She has worked and written for numerous publications including the Sunday Times, Harpers Bazaar, the Telegraph, Guardian, Observer, and Elle. She also consults for and collaborates with numerous global beauty brands.

Gervase Phinn

Dr Gervase Phinn is a teacher, freelance lecturer, author, poet, educational consultant and visiting professor of education. For fourteen years he taught in a range of schools, then acted as General Adviser for Language Development in Rotherham before moving on to North Yorkshire, where he spent ten years as a school inspector - time that has provided much source material for his books. He has four grown up children and four grandchildren and lives near Doncaster. Visit Gervase's website, www.gervase-phinn.com.

Henry Blofeld

Henry began writing about cricket, for The Times, in May 1962 and in 1972 he started his long career as a commentator with the BBC's Test Match Special. During his career he has written for numerous papers and broadcast for both radio and television for many networks around the world especially in Australia and New Zealand. Between 1991 and 1993 he joined Sky Television before returning to Test Match Special after the death of Brian Johnston early in 1994. Since 2002 Henry Blofeld has performed in his humorous one-man show in theatres all round the country, and later he teamed up with his former TMS producer, Peter Baxter, for more than 250 two-man shows. He also had a successful partnership with England Spin Bowler, Graeme Swann. Henry now tours the country with his one man show.

James Bowen

James Bowen is the author of the bestselling A Street Cat Named Bob and The World According to Bob. He found Bob the cat in 2007 and the pair have been inseparable ever since. They both live in London.