By Hannah M Smith, on 24 April 2018
With her debut novel and Sunday Times Best Seller, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman presents us with the pulling down of the walls that Eleanor, the protagonist, has built as a self-defence mechanism to a horrendous past and a present wrenching feeling caused by loneliness and social isolation. Eleanor Oliphant declares she is absolutely fine but, in truth, there is only thing that can scare her more than to be “left all alone” and that is to be “left with her”, her manipulative and conniving mother.
Thanks to a fruitless juvenile crush on a local singer and – in Eleanor’s view – a dull and ill-mannered IT guy, Raymond, Eleanor gradually familiarizes herself with social conventions, sheds lingering guilt and begins to realize she deserves happiness. The readers witness Eleanor’s outward and inward metamorphose which transpires little by little as Honeyman does not fail to implant the ways resistance acts against change, even if it is a welcoming and positive one.
Raymond is a ray of hope in Eleanor’s dark tendencies and it becomes clear for the reader through digging – not so deep – beneath Eleanor’s words that he is a kind-hearted and loyal friend. Their bond, although recent, quickly becomes profound and their relationship tantalizes the readers’s appetite for a developing romance far more desirable than Eleanor’s daydreaming about her crush on a local singer.
Throughout the book which is organized in the “good”, the “bad” and the “better days”, Eleanor ventures to convince more herself than us that she is completely fine. Gail Honeyman presents us first with the good days in Eleanor’s life which are strikingly rife with the haunting effects of scarring incidents and reverberating loneliness’ overtones. The funny, eccentric, and unintentionally rude Miss Oliphant often fails to find the golden ratio of being fine, and the readers follow her when she feels at her prime for the first time in her thirty years of living and when she falls down to the abyssal depths of loneliness and depression.
In her efforts to re-organise her life, Eleanor is required to abandon her most entrenched and comforting element which is her everyday routine comprised of repetitive office work, Tesco pizza and cheap vodka. I often felt the urge to grab Eleanor by her shoulders and tell her she is the rude one in most of the situations and it is impossible she cannot fathom that the singer is completely unaware of her existence. Nonetheless, although she comes across as quirky and inconsiderate, Miss Oliphant only desires to be honest and she always had “been aiming for pleasant and friendly”. The narration continuously reminds the reader the problem of making assumptions and how easy it can be to pass judgement standing on a vantage point.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine upsets the false premise of normality in family life as Eleanor makes the characters around her and readers alike to reconsider before taking happiness and social relationships for granted. At the bottom line, having family and friends is not a given but a privilege. As the book moves forward, Eleanor bends the reader with her moving story and insightful comments of her surroundings. Prepare yourself to counter comic outbreaks following Eleanor’s sharp observations, misjudgements and detailed stream of consciousness that amply offer cathartic and enjoyable moments.
Not ever before being an outcast has been so relatable, quotidian and purely honest. Eleanor ceaselessly fights to “disappear into everywoman [and everyone’s] acceptability”, forgetting midway to accept herself. However, she finds the courage to receive help and pick herself up. This is the book for the precise moment you determine to keep going against adversity or you decide to be more understanding and empathetic towards other people’s struggles. The book, in a word, is humane.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is published by HarperCollins
By Hannah M Smith, on 23 April 2018
Paula Cocozza’s debut novel How to be Human is one that will remind you of multiple stories you’ve read in the past, while remaining wildly and uniquely different to all of them. Wild animals? Check. Love that borders on mania? Check. The city and nature butting up against each other in sharp contrast? Check.
The story follows Mary, a woman in her late twenties living in Hackney as she navigates the world after the breakdown of an intense and controlling relationship. Her life now, it seems, consists mostly of a dull job, an irritating boss, a mother conspicuous only in her absence and the histrionics of her next-door neighbours. With an endless expanse of eventless days stretching out before her, is it any wonder that Mary turns her attention elsewhere?
Namely, to a fox. While the infestation is considered by the rest of the neighbourhood to be a nuisance or even a threat, Mary grows fond of one fox in particular – she only one she ever sees, though the neighbourhood insist that there are many of them. This fondness develops into ardour, develops into obsession as we start to doubt the stability of Mary’s mental state and her reliability as a narrator. As the novel progresses, Mary becomes convinced that the fox is leaving gifts for her; she then begins to give romantic descriptions of “her Fox” and tells her diminishing human contacts that she is “seeing someone new”. She begins to exhibit the same behaviours she believes the fox is showing towards her – possessiveness and protectiveness – which are the same qualities that seemed so oppressive in her ex. She stops going to work and starts crawling around on all fours in the wilderness behind her house. All the while, the wilfully childless Mary begins to feel more and more drawn towards her neighbour’s newborn, Flora, an attraction that cannot fail to evoke a sense of dread in the reader. All is not well with poor Mary.
At its heart, the novel is an unsettling look into loneliness, human connection and the boundary between civilisation and wilderness. These themes are made clear because although Mary is a purposefully dull character stuck in a dreary life, she is incredibly reflective and aware of the metaphors that surround her, making her demise all the more disturbing. The reader has the sense that the world described through Mary’s eyes is not the world as it really is; all characters in the book are presented as difficult to understand and empathise with because that is how they appear to Mary. Their actions often seem hyperbolic, random and unmotivated; hence the trouble Mary is experiencing with forging friendships. The relationships she has had in the past are given equally little attention – specifically, the relationship with her ex-fiancé and with her mother. Neither is fully explored, which on one hand leaves them feeling unsubstantiated, but on the other makes a wider point about the way our protagonist connects (or fails to connect) with other people. The reader is denied fleshed-out or realistic relationships and is left wanting – just like Mary.
Reading this book feels like a game of Buckaroo that never ends. To Mary, time seems stretched and scenes are unnaturally elongated, with a matter of hours spanning multiple chapters. This is certainly atmospheric but can also make for a frustrating read at times. The tension keeps building and building without respite, intensified as the reader is sucked into Mary’s world almost against their will. Absorbing and subversive, Cocozza’s debut will certainly give you some food for thought.
How to by Human is published by Hutchinson
By Jessica B S Brotman, on 15 March 2018
The CILIP Carnegie Medal is the longest-running award for children and young adult literature in the United Kingdom, and yesterday, its shortlist for 2017 was released. The list highlights the importance of social commentary and diverse representation in children’s and young adult literature, and Patrick Ness’ inclusion sets him up to be the first author ever to receive the award three times. We are excited to see a shortlist of beloved authors and inclusive works, and we are eagerly awaiting the prize’s final announcement on June 8. Please see below for the full shortlist for the Carnegie Medal!
Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean (Usborne Publishing)
Rook by Anthony McGowan (Barrington Stoke)
After the Fire by Will Hill (Usborne Publishing)
Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans (David Fickling Books)
Release by Patrick Ness (Walker Books)
Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk (Corgi)
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Walker Books)
Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick (Orion)
The shortlist for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal, awarded for outstanding achievement in children’s illustration, has also been announced and can be viewed here.
By Hannah M Smith, on 12 March 2018
Interscript is hosting a panel event, ‘Publishing the Future,’ covering topics of diversity and inclusivity within the publishing industry as well as digitalisation and the future of academic publishing. With fantastic speakers, including guests from Knights Of, don’t miss your chance to ask the panel your questions and the opportunity to hear their thoughts on the future of the publishing industry. The event is this Thursday so make sure to reserve your seat here!
Thursday, 15 March 2018 from 16:30 to 19:00 (GMT)
G12, Torrington (1-19)
University College London
Torrington Place, London
London, WC1E 7HB, UK
Interscript is an academic student-led journal and magazine that publishes research and articles on publishing topics. We welcome submissions from professionals, academics, and postgraduate students.
By Hannah M Smith, on 8 March 2018
So it’s International Women’s Day and, if there wasn’t already enough excitement surrounding the celebration of all the wonderful women in our personal lives and those who have shaped lives for women across the ages, the Women’s Prize for fiction has also released their 2018 longlist!
Set up in 1996, the Women’s Prize for Fiction (previously Bailey’s Prize and the Orange Prize) ‘celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from throughout the world’. The winner receives £30,000 and a limited edition bronze known as a ‘Bessie’.
One of this years judges Sarah Sands said: “What is striking about the list, apart from the wealth of talent, is that women writers refuse to be pigeon-holed. We have searing social realism, adventure, comedy, poetic truths, ingenious plots and unforgettable characters. Women of the world are a literary force to be reckoned with.”
The books in the longlist are:
H(A)PPY by Nicola Barker
The Idiot by Elif Batuman
Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon
Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar
Sight by Jessie Greengrass
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife by Meena Kandasamy
Elmet by Fiona Mozley
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
A Boy in Winter by Rachel Seiffert
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
The Trick to Time by Kit de Waal
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
The shortlist will be announced on 23rd April and the winner announced on 6th June. Get reading and decide your favourites!!
By Hannah M Smith, on 3 March 2018
Every year the beginning of March brings World Book Day – a celebration of authors, illustrators, books and reading. The campaign gives children in over 100 countries the chance to read/own a book and is often marked by children dressing up as their favourite literary character (or whatever character their parents can scramble together). For publishers, it is an opportunity to drive more children into bookshops and encourage children to read for pleasure. Lots of authors every year write a book as part of the campaign and bookshops across the UK sell these titles. This year, Penguin Random House organised the single largest volunteering effort – donating over 6,000 books to the local communities and with 500+ colleagues visiting over 130 schools, libraries and children’s centres (although it was rather affected by the snow!). Here is a little history of the campaign, its values and this years WBD books!
History of World Book Day
Now in its 21st year, the WBD campaign aims to ‘encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and reading by providing them with the opportunity to have a book of their own’. It does this by sending 15 million book tokens to schools across the UK along with resource packs containing activities, ideas and display material. It is all possible thanks to National Book Tokens Ltd, publishers and booksellers.
How do the tokens work?
The tokens are each worth £1 and, to ensure that every child can purchase a whole book (as opposed to half…), ten exclusive new books are released as part of the WBD initiative. The tokens can also be used to get £1 off any book or audio book worth over £2.99 at any participating bookshop. For teens, there are now also five titles for only £2.50 – so only £1.50 with a WBD token!
WBD 2018 Titles
Oi Goat! by Kes Gray and Jim Field
Mr Men: My Book About Me by Roger Hargreaves
Paddington Turns Detective and Other Funny Stories by Michael Bond
Nadiya’s Bake Me a Story
The Baby Brother from Outer Space by Pamela Butchart
Terry’s Dumb Dot Story: A Treehouse Tale by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton
Brain Freeze by Tom Fletcher
The Bolds’ Great Adventure by Julian Clary
The Girl Who Thought She Was a Dog by Clare Balding
Marvel Avengers: The Great Heroes
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge
Gangsta Rap by Benjamin Zephaniah
I Have No Secrets by Penny Joelson
Summoner: The Novice by Taran Matharu
By Wendy C Tuxworth, on 27 February 2018
Today we’re very happy to be talking to Annie about booktubing (book YouTubing, for those who aren’t in the know!)
1. Why did you start your booktube account?
Truthfully – I was living in Austria and had a lot of time on my hands and nobody to talk to about books, so it seemed like an obvious solution to a problem. Now I have much less time and a lot more ‘real life’ people to talk to about books – but I keep it up anyway because it’s such a lot of fun.
2. Who are some of your favourite booktubers?
I love Eric at The Lonesome Reader because we have very similar reading tastes and Jen Campbell because she is so knowledgeable! Lauren at Reads and Daydreams was the first channel I ever started watching and I also really love Simon of Savidge Reads because he makes me laugh.
3. What do you think is the most difficult thing about booktubing?
Finding time to film and being consistent with uploading a video every week. I don’t have any fancy lighting so I try to film during the day when the sunlight is good (which isn’t often). I also have to be in the right mood to film… and then there’s the problem of my internet connection being so weak that I can only upload videos on the UCL WiFi…
4. Talk us through how you film an average video for your account.
First I’d think about what I want to talk about – if it’s just a regular chatty video like a round-up it won’t need too much scripting, but if I’m going to talk in detail about a single book or topic then I’ll definitely do some research or at least think about what I’m going to say before I press record. Then I’ll wait one (or two or three) weeks to be in the mood to be on camera and have good lighting. After I’ve filmed, I spend about an hour editing (I used to take me way longer because I edit out loads – I umm and ahhh so much). Then I design the thumbnail, upload the video and spend a little while longer faffing around with the description, cards and end screens. Oh, and I also reply to comments as much as I can. Writing all that out has made me realise that it’s actually quite time consuming… hmmm. Assignments? What assignments?
5. What advice would you give to someone interested in booktubing?
Give it a go and see if it’s for you! You won’t regret trying. Your first video will probably be a bit rubbish because they always are – if you’re like me, you’ll feel awkward on camera and you won’t know how to edit or upload or any of those things, but it absolutely doesn’t matter. The Booktube community are suuuuper friendly and welcoming and they don’t care if your lighting is bad or if your audio quality isn’t great (I film on my phone, nobody cares). You really do have to learn by doing and it’s so easy once you get started.
“Ok, that’s all from me guys, don’t forget to hit thumbs up if you liked this and hit the subscribe button so that you never miss any of my videos!!!!” (I’m joking I don’t say that).
Thanks so much to Annie!
By Hannah M Smith, on 26 February 2018
Following on from our interview with Daniel last term, we’ve heard from Sam about how she fell into publishing, her favourite books and her advice for Publishing MA students!
What kind of fiendish question is that?! There are old-time children’s favourites (Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie, anything by Alison Uttley, Susan Cooper, Joan Aiken…..); favourites for comfort reading (Georgette Heyer); favourites for historical fiction (Dorothy Dunnett), for fantasy/sci fi fiction (Robin Hobbs, Tolkien, Lois McMaster Bujold), for literary fiction (A. S. Byatt, Ishiguro, Sarah Perry)….and, of course, for my academic work, it has to be Le Morte d’Arthur, by Thomas Malory!
How did you get into publishing?
It’s a story of happenstance, perseverance, fate, and how sometimes being pushed to do something can result in amazing things! Books have been the one constant in all my jobs – except, like Daniel, for a miserable few weeks working for an insurance company, and doing lots of farm work while I was at school (I grew up on a fruit and hop farm). I started with a Saturday job in my local town library, Tonbridge, and then worked in a bookshop, Hammicks in Tunbridge Wells, during my gap year and then every vacation whilst I was at university in Bangor, doing a degree in English. I went on to do an MA in Literature (on the poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins), and then got married, did more bookshop work, and then a PGCE in Secondary English and Drama. A few years of teaching in Kent schools followed, before I had my son: and then my tutors from Bangor suggested that it would be a good time to do a PhD! So I did – in medieval poetry, and during the course of this, fate took our family back to Bangor, so I was able to start teaching English at the university part-time, whilst I finished my thesis. When that was done I was asked to take on a Research and Development Manager role to help set up a new School of Creative Studies and Media. This gave me interesting experiences not just of putting together new courses (including publishing ones!), hiring staff, and helping to facilitate research bids, but also useful things like having to kit out a new building, from scratch (I am still very proud that ten years on the red sofas I chose are going strong in the lobby area!) This was a two year contract, so when that ended my boss pushed me to apply for a part-time, senior lecturer post at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, in Publishing. It seemed a crazy idea at the time, but I applied, setting out what I’d do if I had to build a new MA in Publishing, and got the job!
Moving to a new place was hard, but this job allowed me to spend time within a publishing company (Cambridge University Press mentored me for the first couple of months I was in post, so I got to see all the different depts there), and I loved seeing the course develop. After a year, I was also involved in setting up a new Research Institute about Digital Culture, so that also linked in my existing developmental facilitation experience and skills.
And then, in 2012, I was encouraged to apply for a job at UCL, and did, again not thinking I stood a chance of getting it – and the rest is history! I am living proof that at some point, all those random bits of work experience do come together (even the fruit and hop-picking have been useful training in perseverance, and attention to detail!).
How do you interact with your chosen field?
That’s a good question! Publishing is such a truly dynamic area, and is moving so fast, so you have to keep up with what’s happening. Twitter is a vital tool, as is The Bookseller, and all the different conferences and seminars that happen. The London Book Fair is a great annual hub of activity. On the academic side, I have two academic families – my publishing one, and my Arthurian/ medieval one, and I interact with them by attending conferences, meetings, and collaborating with people on research. You are always learning something new, and I love that!
Favourite piece of research you’ve been part of?
I really enjoyed the Academic Book of the Future research, which was a huge project, with lots of different strands and activities. I worked with some amazing people, and got the chance to make real impact within the academic book world. At the moment, I am really loving the research I am doing with two friends and Arthurian/ publishing colleagues (yes, there are more of us!) Dr Leah Tether and Dr Bex Lyons, on the Penguin Archive at Bristol University. We’re looking at how Penguin worked to make classic texts available to a more general readership, and finding some fascinating stuff…it’s detective work, and finding material that sheds new light on how we perceive these canonical works. Publishers do more than you might think!
What advice would you give a Publishing MA student?
Make the most of your investment. Use all the opportunities the course and UCL offer you – not just the classes, but beyond that. Be prepared to push outside of your comfort zone, to take creative risks, and to use the space the MA gives you to explore what your strengths are, and what kind of job you really want to pursue….
A fun fact about yourself:
Um….I’ll confess to being a complete Alan Rickman fan!
A book that we might be surprised you have read?
Well, when doing Admissions interviews, I always take note of any books people say they enjoy when they answer that first question! So, this past year, I have enjoyed reading Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, and Sigrid Unset’s Kristin Lavransdatter as a result of student recommendations: so I do listen! (and thanks, guys!)
Thank you Sam for your wonderful answers. I was pleased to note I’m not the only one who struggles to choose a favourite book (or ten)!
By Jessica B S Brotman, on 21 February 2018
It’s no secret that the digital age has modified the publishing industry in significant ways. In the modern publishing world, readers engage with texts electronically, Amazon has transformed the way we shop for books, and online reading communities continue to emerge around such outlets as Twitter and Goodreads. The Internet, moreover, has altered and strengthened the way we discuss the books we read and love. The emergence of book blogs, for example, has created a valuable network for readers of all ages to share what they are reading, what they think about it, and what they think fellow book lovers might (or might not!) enjoy. There is an abundance of wonderful book blogs online today, and you can read about three of our favourites below.
Folded Pages Distillery
Folded Pages Distillery is a book review blog run by Hikari Loftus, Doni Faber, and Brittney Jensen. As reviewers, these women aim to focus on the ideas and feelings at the heart of books, and they consistently deliver thorough and well-considered reviews of titles across several genres. They also create and share beautiful, book-inspired photography over on Instagram.
Katherine Sunderland has created a book lover’s paradise with her blog, Bibliomaniac. We adore this site for Katherine’s frequent, highly readable reviews and attention to modern, best-selling books. Some of our favourite posts include Katherine’s Weeks in Books, in which she relays books she has purchased, reader events she has attended, and more. The site also features a Bibliomaniac Book Club, which is the perfect opportunity for readers to discover and engage with new titles.
BookRiot is a comprehensive review site that discusses a variety of literary genres and book-related topics. Whether you are seeking thrillers to keep you up at night, romances for your next holiday, or inspiring non-fiction picks, BookRiot will help you find the titles for you. We also appreciate that BookRiot goes beyond book reviews to discuss other facets of publishing, from writing culture to issues of diversity to reader lifestyle and more.
Image from Folded Pages Distillery
By Jessica B S Brotman, on 11 February 2018
Whether they’re psychological hits like The Woman in Cabin 10 or tales of domesticity gone wrong, it’s safe to say that literary thrillers are established and well-loved in today’s publishing world. So far in 2018, one particular crime thriller, The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn, has skyrocketed to the top of bestseller lists and to the forefront of public awareness.
As mentioned in our previous ‘Books We Can’t Wait to Read This Month’ post, the novel focuses on Anna Fox, a children’s psychologist who, due to a mysterious past trauma, has isolated herself in her home. She passes her days sipping wine, watching old movies, and perhaps most prominently, spying on her plethora of neighbors. One day, she believes she may have witnessed something sinister, and the plot unfolds as Anna, and those around her, try to make sense of what she might have seen. We can’t wait to delve into this mystery characterized by foggy pasts, questionable perspective, and issues of mental health.
We are excited about this release for reasons outside of its captivating plot, however. Its author, Dan Mallory writing as A.J. Finn, is not only a debut writer but also a longtime editor and publisher. Mallory previously published with Sphere in the U.K. and now works for William Morrow in New York City. We love seeing a publishing fellow make the jump to authorship and receive such resounding praise. How inspiring!
Have you read The Woman in the Window? Let us know what you think!