Author Interview: Ocean Capewell

Today I’m excited to be interviewing Ocean Capewell, author of The Most Beautiful Rot which my friend Ingrid and I reviewed here recently. Ocean, tell us a little about yourself – where do you live and what do you like to do when you’re not working?
Hi! I am also excited to be interviewed. I’m a 32 year old queer white lady. I’m from the NYC suburbs but I’ve lived in a lot of other places and I currently live in Oakland, CA which I really love. I work with mentally ill homeless people in San Francisco, which is really intense and takes up the vast majority of my mindspace these days. But when I can escape from that mindspace, I like riding my bike, reading tarot cards, reading in general, drawing, and sewing patches on my trashpicked patchwork quilt.

A few questions about your novel and the writing process:
Did the idea for The Most Beautiful Rot come at you in a rush, or form itself slowly?

When I started writing TMBR, I had no clue that i was actually writing a book. It started itself off as a 4-paged story, written solely for the purpose of irritating my girlfriend at the time. (It’s the scene where they find something untoward in the compost pile, if you’re curious–my gf had a huge, out of control compost pile that she never turned.) It didn’t actually irritate my girlfriend–she loved it–and I had such a blast writing it that I kept going. When I hit page 36 or so, I realized that I was writing a book. I didn’t plan the whole thing, I just wrote and wrote and let the story unfold.
People often asusme that TMBR is my autobiography, which isn’t true. I definitely lived in that world, but I haven’t had most of the experiences that the characters have had. There were some characters I needed to do background research on, like Xandria, who is an incest survivor and a drug user. Since I’m not either one of those things, I had to check out a lot of books on them from my library, which honestly felt a little awkward. It was scary writing about people who’ve had experiences that I haven’t. I was worried it would come off like a really bad YA novel where teenagers are like, “Gee willikers, mom, get off my case! I’m going to the library and you’ll be dad-blasted if you’ll stop me!” You know, not talking the way real people talk. I hope I did ok, and if I didn’t, I’m very open to feedback.

Did you have an imagined audience in mind when writing your novel, and relatedly, are there any particular groups of people who you would like to read it?
I wrote this book mostly because my younger self needed to read it. I wrote it for queers and weirdos that live in that world. Some people say that my book can be a little alienating because it’s so steeped in that subculture, but you know what? Mainstream fiction alienates me every day. And I still read it. As for groups of people who I would want to read it, I didn’t have any in mind. I just wrote it because I needed to get it out of me.

What writing projects are you currently working on?
Well, I spent about two years writing a memoir that is not going to ever see the light of day, unfortunately, unless I rework about 80% of it. But there are some essays in there that I like too much to kill, so I’m releasing a new zine with some of those essays in there. I’m excited about it. It’s going to be the longest zine I’ve ever done and I think the best.

Also, for the last ten years or so I’ve been planning on writing a queer construction-worker romance. My family is three generations of NYC construction workers, and that world is very hilarious and interesting. I did it for one summer and was fascinated. There weren’t that many dykes there, but the ones that were were so tough, hot , and awesome. I would really like to write a book about this strange world, and I should really get on it before I forget every single detail!

How do you fit in writing around other commitments and pressures in your life?
Unfortunately, I don’t really fit it in. Either I ignore my paid job or I ignore my writing. I’ve spent much of my last sixteen years of paid labor fairly alienated from it, working blah jobs that I didn’t care about but that gave me enough money to stay alive and plenty of time to write. Right now, I have a well-paid, meaningful job that just consumes every last bit of me, and I’ve not gotten a damn thing done writing-wise for over a year. I’m going back to part-time hours there soon and I hope that will help.

Do you have a photo of your writing space? If not, please describe it for us.
I don’t, sadly! I wrote most of TMBR while I was living in Pittsburgh, and that desk was taken to the curb when I moved. It took me about four years to write TMBR. The first two years I wrote on a computer that my girlfriend-at-the-time had found in the garbage and fixed up for me. When that computer gave up on life, my brother gave me his old computer that he didn’t want anymore. I still have that computer, seven years later, and it’s still working fine, because I only use it for writing and storing music and photos. I try to avoid having the internet at my home. At first, it was done mostly because I couldn’t afford it–and now it’s because I just get too sucked in to the internet. My creativity suffers greatly when I have unfettered internet access. I could send you a picture of my desk, but my actual desk is always a mess. I’m a very disorganized and chaotic person.

You self-published The Most Beautiful Rot. What were some of the best things about that, and what have you found most challenging?
Best things? Definitely the freedom, not having to wait a year or so between acceptance and publication. Doing all the work myself wasn’t necessarily bad, I learned a lot. I actually had a really good time doing the layout, and I think it looks pretty good for someone who didn’t really know what they were doing. The worst part about self-publishing has been the obscurity. I’m really bad at publicizing myself or selling my book. I feel like I’ve written a book that a decent amount of people will like but I don’t know how to get it to them. I get nervous talking about my own work and I know I’m missing opportunities and I just don’t know what to do about it.

And some questions about your own reading:
Who are some of your favourite authors?

All-time faves: Sherman Alexie, Marge Piercy, Cindy Crabb, Judy Grahn, Dorothy Allison, Diane DiMassa, Aaron Cometbus, Sarah Schulman, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarsinha, David Levithan, Cheryl Strayed.

How much do you get to read, and where do you like to do it?

My reading ebbs and flows. I can always get a little reading done on BART, and usually for a few hours after work too. I like reading in bed, at home, the best.

Do you like to own your books, or are you happy to use libraries?
I’ve spent a lot of my life broke and moving around a lot, so owning books is not always the best idea for me (although I still buy/find way too many books). I love the library! and always have. My mom is a librarian so I got started young.

What are your thoughts on TV/movie adaptations of books and do you have any favourites?
Hmm. I liked “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” although it was very different from the book, I still thought it was a good movie. Same for “It’s Kind of a Funny Story”. I can’t think of any other movies I’ve seen that are adapted from books, sorry!

Finally, please recommend a book to What Hannah Read’s readers!
I recently read “A Cup of Water Under My Bed” by Daisy Hernandez and I couldn’t put it down. It’s a lyrical, poignant memoir of a girl growing up in 1970’s/80’s New Jersey, the firstborn daughter of immigrant parents, who kind of falls into this literary/queer world and it’s about the struggles between the two. An excellent book, very worth checking out.

Want to buy a copy of The Most Beautiful Rot by Ocean Capewell? You can do so here!

(Copyright note: All photographs courtesy of Ocean Capewell – thank you!)

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

★★★★ (4 stars)

Synopsis from Goodreads: It’s 1959. The battle for civil rights is raging. And it’s Sarah Dunbar’s first day of school, as one of the first black students at the previously all-white Jefferson High. No one wants Sarah there. Not the Governor. Not the teachers. And certainly not the students – especially Linda Hairston, daughter of the town’s most ardent segregationist. Sarah and Linda have every reason to despise each other. But as a school project forces them to spend time together, the less their differences seem to matter. And Sarah and Linda start to feel something they’ve never felt before. Something they’re both determined ignore. Because it’s one thing to be frightened by the world around you – and another thing altogether when you’re terrified of what you feel inside.

Why did I read this book?
Hayley kindly sent me a proof copy she obtained through her work. Thank you! Also, I was interested in reading more about the issues raised in the synopsis, and felt in the mood for a Young Adult book. As far as the label “Young Adult” goes however I think Lies We Tell Ourselves has great crossover potential and could easily have been marketed as an adult book that happened to have teenage characters.

Favourite thing about the book:
So many things, but I guess overall it was how much it taught me about the civil rights movement. I was shamefully ignorant on the topic (my excuse is being British and the fact it is barely ever talked about here, but that’s a poor one I know). I had no idea how much segregation was commonplace in the US nearly a hundred years after the abolition of slavery (and not even sixty years from now).

Other positives:
+ I enjoyed Robin Talley’s writing style. It was more formal than I was expecting for a “teen” book, but flowed beautifully and with a good level of detail.
+ The sexuality aspect of the story was handled well. I also liked the way Sarah and Linda’s romance grew out of an initial mutual hatred of each other – a much more interesting route to it than a mutual crush storyline would have been!
+ As well as educating me about the civil rights movement, Lies We Tell Ourselves showed me how limited the roles open to women at the time were. Even Linda, from a wealthy white family, feels her best option may be to get married straight after school.
+ The conflict between Sarah and her fellow Black pupils’ parents’ wishes and their own wishes/experiences regarding their education was interesting. How far would you make your children go to further a cause that you believed would ultimately benefit them?

Least favourite thing about the book:
At times I felt like there were so many issues in the book that the characterisation suffered slightly, and as a result I didn’t get to know either Sarah or Linda as well as I would have liked to. On a related note, the more minor characters were not as well developed as they could have been.

Other negatives:

Favourite character:
Sarah. Second favourite Judy, although I wished she her accepting attitude extended to people of different sexualities as well as races.

Least favourite:
So many! The racist teachers, Bo Nash, Linda’s dad…

I recommend this book to:
~ Anyone interested in exploring issues of sexuality and race, and interplay between the two.
~ People interested in 1950s America.

Thirst by Kerry Hudson

★★★★★ (5 stars)

Synopsis from Goodreads: The beginning of a relationship is usually all about getting to know each other, sharing stories far into the night, comparing experiences, triumphs and heartaches, until we know one another inside out. Not so for Dave and Alena. He’s from London, she’s from Siberia. They meet in a sleek Bond Street department store in the frayed heat of high summer, where she’s up to no good and it’s his job to catch her. So begins an unlikely relationship between two people with pasts, with secrets, they’ve no idea how to live with — or leave behind. But despite everything they don’t have in common, all the details they won’t and can’t reveal, they still find themselves fighting with all they’ve got for a future together. An unconventional, will-they-won’t-they love story, that takes us from London to Siberia, and from hope to heartbreak, and back again.

Why did I read this book?
Because I loved Kerry Hudson’s first book (Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-cream Float Before He Stole My Ma) so much I’d have read anything she followed it with.

Favourite thing about the book:
Pretty much the same thing that I liked about Tony Hogan – it felt gritty and real, and told the tales of people often ignored in most forms of media.

Other positives:
+ Kerry Hudson’s writing style – it’s down-to-earth and readable, yet complex; and definitely draws you in.
+ The novel’s atmosphere, particuarly that of the hot oppressive city summer at the centre of the story.
+ Thirst took me to Russia with such a detailed description of the trip that it felt as if I was there (and our visit wasn’t limited to touristy parts of Moscow).
+ Both Dave and Alana have secrets, and neither are wholly good people, but I couldn’t help feeling for them anyway (especially as there were questions about whether their bad deeds had been done to please those they loved, or out of self-preservation, rather than malice). Thirst provided no easy answers, but instead offered a sense of forgiveness.

Least favourite thing about the book:
Some of the dialogue felt as if it was reflecting the way people are imagined to speak, rather than how they actually speak. And, relatedly, I didn’t love the portrayal of Alana’s second-language-English through the text.

Other negatives:

Favourite character:

Least favourite:
Shelley. I didn’t like David’s mum much either as she had such little respect for his hopes and dreams and instead put her own wishes for him ahead of his own. (And of course all the shady characters and outright villans involved in bringing Alena to London).

I recommend this book to:
~ People who enjoyed Tony Hogan.
~ People who want to read more about working class and/or hidden lives rather than the typical middle class characters of most books
(Please be aware that Thirst covers some dark subject matter (particularly human trafficking and sexual abuse) that some may find upsetting/triggering.)

Be Awesome: Modern Life for Modern Ladies by Hadley Freeman

★★★ (3 stars)

Synopsis from Goodreads: Hadley Freeman, Guardian features writer and author of the popular ‘Ask Hadley’ column, presents the modern lady with twenty-three essays that remind us to ‘Be Awesome’.

I love Hadley Freeman’s writing for the Guardian, so when I heard she had a book out I really wanted to read it. It’s taken me around 18 months to get around to it as my library don’t stock it and sadly it wasn’t really worth the wait (I was so sure it’d be good that I even gave a copy to my friend Katie for her birthday shortly after it came out – I hope it wasn’t a complete letdown for her!). Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t an awful book, and it’s a million miles better than the-aimed-at-a-similar-audience Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman, with its use of words such as “tranny” and sentences like “I have all the joyful ebullience of a retard”. It just wasn’t as enjoyable as I was expecting, and some parts just plain irritated me.

Let’s start with the good stuff, though. The opening section on learning to love working in an office was hilarious, even for someone like me who has only spent the briefest of times working in one. I loved her comments on the teenage mentality that surrounds alcohol even when people have been able to buy it for several decades: “expressed in the faux-shamefaced boasting about how hilariously wasted one was the night before”, and there’s an amazing long footnote about the plot of an imaginary Woody Allen movie set in an office (though you probably have to have seen a fair few Woody Allen movies for it to make sense). I also appreciated her observations on the way mainstream media reduces women to their bodies and nothing more; and on how women are supposed to appreciate any male attention they get without questioning whether they actually like the man concerned or would be interested in him had he not noticed them. As someone who has recently turned 30 I enjoyed the chapter entitled “You’re never too old for Topshop” which discussed some of the pros of exiting one’s teens and twenties which basically boil down to having learned from experience and being more sure about what you enjoy doing and want from life (more sure, not necessarily 100% sure. I doubt anyone ever is), and often have more choices available to you due to having more spending power (not that we all do, but I’ll get to that later).

Okay, onto the ranting. The chapter that annoyed me the most was (ironically?) “The ten commandments of being an unannoying vegetarian”. I’ve been veggie for around two thirds of my life, so feel well-placed to comment on this, and whilst some things I agreed with (not policing other people’s food choices or preaching about your vegetarianism – if people want more information, they’ll ask for it) others were just plain ridiculous. Example #1: Hadley you shouldn’t eat “mock meat products”. Why is it any of her business what other people do or don’t eat? Why should anyone care if it seems “to outsiders like being vegetarian means missing meat and having to make do with rehydrated protein products shaped into the vague shape of drumsticks”, especially as one of her other commandments is not to preach to others? Surely we should be supporting other veg*ns instead of telling them that there are “right” and “wrong” vegetarian foods? (And yes I say this as someone who loves Linda McCartney vegetarian sausage rolls. Guess that makes me really irritating). Example #2: Apparently it’s “annoying” to give people who are cooking for you advance notice of you being a vegetarian, and if they then cook some mighty meat dish you can’t eat anything of you just have to ask them for some crackers or something and eat them whilst everyone else chows down on the main dish (because to do anything else is to create “a self-centered fuss”. And demanding your host search their cupboards for something just for you, which you can exclude yourself from the group by being the only one eating, isn’t?). Personally I would find it a lot more annoying if I had a dinner guest over who didn’t tell me in advance what their food preferences were, then refused whatever I’d spent all afternoon cooking and demanded something else than if I was told in advance that a person preferred their food to be gluten-free or whatever and I’m sure the same goes for meat-eaters who are cooking for vegetarians.

My second-least-favourite chapter was “The Forwardthinkoriums”. It was essentially a rant about people asking women irritating questions about their plans for marriage/babies, which is fair enough, but the Forwardthinkorium concept it was buried in made reading it feel like wading through treacle. I suppose without it the chapter would only have been a third of the length, though…

Which brings me onto my penultimate point: as Be Awesome went along it got a lot less funny and a lot more repetitive. Some of the later chapters (not including the final ones comprising of lists of books and movies, which were pretty entertaining and gave me some new ideas for things to watch) felt like rewrites of earlier ones. There are only so many ways you can make the same observations about the pressure on women to marry and have kids, or the way the Daily Mail portrays female celebrities (to name but two examples). Finally, although touted as a feminist book Be Awesome was not intersectional at all, and like the Caitlin Moran tome mentioned earlier, was very much geared towards and focused on white, middle class, straight, able-bodied women – to the point where women not fitting the same profile as Hadley herself may struggle to find much to relate to (on a personal note I often felt that Be Awesome didn’t apply to me as I’m a SAHM with little disposable income who lives in a rural area rather than an urban centre, although I do share many of the same privileges as Hadley).

Author Interview: Mark Robertson

Today I’m happy to be interviewing Mark Robertson, author of Off Key which I reviewed here recently. Mark, tell us a little about yourself – where do you live and what do you like to do when you’re not working?
I live in East Boldon, a village which lies a few miles north of Sunderland. I am fortunate in that I enjoy my job (I’m a musician). The pay is diabolical but the joys are many. When I’m not working I’m usually to be found dancing in salsa clubs. I strongly recommend them. If you turn up at the start of an evening there will be other beginners and someone on hand to teach you some basic steps, in a formal lesson. Dancing is, without doubt, nature’s own Prozac. It is impossible to dance and be miserable.

A few questions about your novel and the writing process:
What were some of the inspirations behind Off Key?

Now that I’m finished I can see the process I went through a little more clearly. I think I’ve always had a drawer in my head marked NOVEL/SCREENPLAY and at regular intervals I’ve chucked things in there that I’ve either heard or that have just randomly come to me. Eventually it contained enough to make something reasonably substantial. In more concrete terms I drew inspiration from the characters I met whilst playing music. Sometime ago I had a regular jazz gig with a group of older musicians. This outfit was occasionally augmented by visiting soloists from the UK and Europe. The guests were usually larger than life characters and the show would involve a lot of storytelling. The eleven PM curfew would never be met but such were the nature of these entertainers that the bar staff never seemed to mind. Harry Crabb, from my novel, was a concoction of a dozen different musicians blended together and then liberally marinated in alcohol.

Did you have an imagined audience in mind when writing your novel, and relatedly, are there any particular groups of people who you would like to read it?
Anyone who’s literate! I don’t want to sound glib but one of the chief motivator’s to getting the stuff from the “drawer” in my head into some kind of shape was the desire to inform people what it’s like to be a working musician because most literature/art about it seems to be tied to the cliché of becoming wildly successful. That outcome is rare but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t compelling stories to tell about the music world. It was essential to me to write something that wasn’t just going to speak to musicians … we already know what our lives are like and it bares very little comparison to the confection that “The X Factor” dishes up. I’d especially like it to be read by anyone that thinks a musical career is a short cut to fame and fortune. It is, however, a short cut to fun/growth/experiences/friendship and love.

What writing projects are you currently working on?
At present I’m not writing at all I’m just gigging and promoting Off-Key. I think the major advantage of self-publishing is not having an agent/publisher breathing down your neck to repeat your last trick. I think that’s the reason that so many writer’s second and third novels are rewrites of the first. I burnt with the desire to tell Off-Key. Unless I feel that sort of passion again I won’t write another novel.

How do you fit in writing around other commitments and pressures in your life?
While writing Off-Key I just chugged along until the thing was over. Sometimes I wrote straight through the night other times I didn’t touch it for weeks. It did however take about four times as long as I thought it would.

Do you have a photo of your writing space?

This is taken from my web-site and, whilst it is where I write, the alcohol and drug paraphernalia were placed there to make me seem more interesting. I’m afraid to say my narcotic of choice is probably Earl Grey tea.

Off Key is self-published. What were some of the best things about that, and what have you found most challenging?
Not having to write again if I don’t feel the urge (see above). Designing the cover was a joy although it required herculean amounts of patience … it took six months and involved five people but it’s successful completion was a big high when I saw the first copy. The greatest challenge has been copyediting and proof reading. I checked it myself almost endlessly then gave it to a best-selling author of my acquaintance who checked it. I then had it professionally proof-read twice … there are still a few misspelt words!

And some questions about your own reading:
Who are some of your favourite authors?

Thomas Hardy/Spalding Gray/ Nick Hornby/Spike Milligan/David Sedaris/ W. Somerset Maugham/Alan Bennett.

I tidied up my shelves for the photo because a lot of my books are filed somewhat informally on tables /drawers/ the microwave etc. (a capital offence, I’m sure, to many Book Bloggers . . . In my defence I haven’t arranged/highlighted the books that will make me seem smarter or better read than I am.) The eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted my emergency jar of marmite.

How much do you get to read, and where do you like to do it?
I’m a real newspaper junky so often fiction takes second place but I like to read every day, usually in bed.

Do you like to own your books, or are you happy to use libraries?
I like to own them so I can dip into them occasionally.

What are your thoughts on TV/movie adaptations of books and do you have any favourites?
I’m usually disappointed by screenplays of novels (I didn’t even dare see Love in the time of Cholera) although I enjoyed John Schlesinger’s 1967 adaptation of Far From the Madding Crowd which looked beautiful and did a job.

Finally, please recommend a book to What Hannah Read’s readers!
I’m picking an over-looked gem here, rather than a monumental work of fiction, but I think Bill Dare’s Natural Selection would be loved by anyone who had enjoyed my book.

(Note on the photos: the author photo is copyright Pete Zulu, the other photos are copyright Mark Robertson.)

Two-View Book Review: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Joining me for this review is Janet, who you may remember joined me in reviewing Fangirl back in May this year. An English teacher & blogger, you can find her on Twitter as @jbistheinitial.

★★★★ (4 stars) from both of us.

Synopsis from Goodreads: The year is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned, the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. In South London, in a large silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants, life is about to be transformed, as Mrs Wray and her daughter Frances are obliged to take in lodgers. With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, the routines of the house and the lives of its inhabitants will be shaken up in unexpected ways. And as passions mount and frustration gathers, no one can foresee just how far, and how devastatingly, the disturbances will reach.

Why did I read this book?
J: I’ve read everything else Sarah Waters has written and, with the exception of The Little Stranger, loved every one of her books.

H: Like Janet, I’ve read all Sarah Waters’ previous books. Some I’ve loved (Fingersmith, The Night Watch) others a little less so (Affinity, The Little Stranger) but even those that aren’t my favourites have been memorable and atmospheric.

Favourite thing about the book:
J: The beautiful imagery of the prose. A room drenched in sunlight, “richly yellow now as the yolk of an egg.” Or the house, after the lodgers have made their ‘lurid’ mark, looking, “as if a giant mouth had sucked a bag of boiled sweets and then given the house a lick.”

H: The way the novel brought 1920s London alive. I loved the period details and learning more about a time that I didn’t know much about (it seems to be under-represented in literature when compared to the late Victorian era or the world wars); I felt fully immersed in it.

Other positives:
J: + The characters of Frances and Lilian were both likable even when their actions seemed morally dubious (to say the least!) and I was really rooting for them.
+ As with all of Waters’ books, the sense of historical place is beautifully done. She evokes post-WW1 London, with all of the social and cultural upheavals the war caused for both men and women, perfectly.
+ The moral ambiguity of the second half of the novel is cleverly done, and I liked the way in which Waters keeps you guessing about Lilian’s true motives.
+ The way in which Waters described the quiet grief of the women who lost sons, brothers, husbands, in the war.

H: + As Janet also mentioned, the prose is gorgeous (but not overdone).
+ Although this wasn’t as un-put-down-able as Fingersmith, I very much wanted to know how the story would end – as evidenced by my managing to finish this 500+ page epic in less than a week.
+ I liked that there weren’t clear answers about the way certain key characters (Frances’ mother, Leonard, Lillian) were feeling, and in the first example, how aware she was of particular events. The people in the novel felt real to me.
+ I didn’t expect the twist which comes around halfway through at all (though maybe I should have? I’m probably the only person who didn’t see it coming. I was thinking of completely different ideas for where the crime element would come in).

Least favourite thing about the book:
J: Like The Little Stranger, I found it dragged a bit towards the middle and at times I skimmed over whole pages. But that might also be because I’m a notoriously impatient reader. On the whole, I’d say I liked this book very much but didn’t quite love it.

H: Similarly to Janet, I wasn’t a fan of the plot’s structure. Some bits dragged, other (quite key) events felt rushed, the ending was too abrupt and I was hoping for more twists.

Other negatives:
J: I can’t think of any.

H: Me neither.

Favourite character:
J: A suffragette who threw her shoe at an MP? Of course I’d admire Frances the most! I particularly liked those glimpses of her past, Wartime self (and in fact would quite happily read a whole book about her antics), which made the scenes of her scrubbing floors and making ends meet for her mother all the more filled with pathos. I also liked Christina very much.

H: Frances. She seems to think deeply about the needs of others (particularly her mother) and I liked that (initially, anyway) she strove to find pleasure in the small things in life, as her life had become far flatter than she’d expected.

Least favourite:
J: Leonard

H: Lillian. I couldn’t warm to her at all. I found there were more than just a few undercurrents of manipulation and selfishness to her behaviour, and couldn’t trust her motives at all. I also found her rather pretentious even at the best of times (though admired her dress-making skill).

I recommend this book to:
J: ~ Anyone interested in the inter-war period and particularly women’s lives.
~ Anyone who’s read and liked Sarah Waters in the past, as it’s a great return to form.
~ Anyone who enjoys crime novels (although I have to say that, compared to the wonderful twists of her early novels like Fingersmith and Affinity, The Paying Guests was short on surprises).

H: ~ I think Janet’s said it all, really! There is a gay element to the story too, so if you’re looking for a novel with a gay romantic element you could do worse than to choose this.

Personal Update & Some Blogging About Blogging

fredandsib Here’s a photo of my little boy holding an ultrasound photo of his little brother, who is due in February 2015! (& a toy egg, which he insisted also featured in the photo.) So far I’m finding pregnancy easier second time around – I had hyperemesis gravidarum in my first pregnancy and, although I’ve still been more unwell than most pregnant women, this time it’s been far more manageable with no hospital visits, and now, at 21 weeks, all sickness seems to have passed. I can feel the baby moving around and am generally just enjoying the experience of having a tiny human growing inside me. I can’t wait to meet the little guy, and am amazed at how fast the first half of the pregnancy has gone by.

What will having another baby mean for What Hannah Read? I’m not entirely sure. One thing I am sure of is that I won’t be deleting this blog. I’ve been writing here for nearly three years now and would like to keep it going for a good while yet. After all, the early childhood years may be intense but they are (too) short, and I’ll have plenty of time later to be reading books and writing about them. I know from friends with more than one child (and from the experience of having had a baby) how time for hobbies tends to disappear when there is a baby in the house or more than one child to care for, so I’m not promising myself or anyone else that I’ll keep writing long(ish) reviews here – it may be that all I can manage for a while after baby bro appears are quick reviews, or even monthly round-ups of my reading… I might struggle to even get time to read at all (though I’m sure I’ll find a way). But What Hannah Read won’t be disappearing, although it may turn into a “lite” version of itself for a while and I hope you’ll all stick with me.