Foundlings, illustrations and independent bookshops

A couple of weeks ago I visited the ‘Drawing on Childhood’ exhibition at the Foundling Museum. Originally built as a hospital for orphans and unwanted children in 1741 by Thomas Coran, the museum hosts a permanent exhibition on the history of the hospital as well as  visiting exhibitions such as this one which looks at illustrations of foundlings in literature. From Oliver and Peter Pan, to Harry Potter and James and the Giant Peach, the exhibition displays a range of interpretations form the original first editions, to modern depictions of these much loved characters.

It was lovely to see how different illustrators had brought these children to life in such different styles. Below is Mabel Lucie Atwell’s work for a 1921 copy of Peter Pan alongside Steven White’s recent graphic novel of the tale. His drawings were slightly darker, with a nod to anime style, and I definitely want to get my hands on a copy.

As well as spotting some of my favourite titles, I was also awakened to some children’s classics that I have not yet had the pleasure of discovering, and have also added to my wishlist.

The following week, I found my self Easter-holidaying in Lyme Regis where I visited one of my favourite little finds – The Sanctuary Bookshop.23023193

This is an Aladdin’s cave of  bookshop with room after room of floor to ceiling bookshelves, stacks of antiques, memorabilia and framed cartoons – it even overflows to the basement! What I like most is the way the shelves are categorised. With entire sections dedicated to particular authors, or even to certain publishers and imprints, such as the old Penguin Classics, the layout encourages rummaging and discovery. There are also a mix of original treasures alongside more recent works, and obscure titles you may never have heard of.

Amongst the children’s classics, I spotted a beautiful, slightly love-worn 1921 edition of The Water Babies, filled with both line illustrations and colours works by George Soper. This was one of the titles from the exhibition that I have not yet read so I was delighted to add this stunning copy to my collection.

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SYP Lit Fest Feast: Behind the Scenes at Literary Festivals

Following Philip Pullman’s recent resignation as patron of Oxford Literary Festival over their failure to pay author fees, there has been heated campaigning for authors to be paid for the time they dedicate to appearances. Oxford has responded that they are not currently in a financial position to pay their authors but will be discussing this with their partners for the year 2017, and other festivals have long argued that the publicity and book sales that the events promote are fair remuneration. Despite the fact that many authors do not see big sales at festivals, we shouldn’t forget that these are the people that make it all possible in the first place!

With such a big name backing the debate, the support Pullman received over twitter, and open letters from authors in the media, it’s not surprising that a crowd was once again gathered for SYP Oxford’s latest event,  Lit Fest Feast: Behind the Scenes at Literary Festivals.

Joined by Matt Holland, founder and Director of Swindon Festival of Literature, and Jenny Dee, Director of Chip Lit Fest (Chipping Norton), we learnt what it takes to bring these celebrations of literature to the book-loving public.

The event started by covering the planning and organisation of  festivals and Matt told the audience how he founded the Swindon Festival of Literature over 20 years ago. Starting with a group of literature-lovers approaching the council with an idea, the festival (which is actually three years older than Oxford) began with a dedicated group investing their own money and time to deliver the word to the public. Many said literature was not a word well-associated with Swindon, but Matt knew they were on to something when a man approached him to say ‘you’re book thing is really good. You just talk about the stuff we talk about at the pub – sex, death, love and relationships – but in an organised way!’

Running for 2 weeks in May, Swindon’s festival is now competing with an estimated 237 festivals around the country to bring the public closer to the authors that inspire them – and showing that they are just real people.

Jenny, who has taken over as Festival Director this year having assisted on the festival before, spoke about the festival planning itself. She starts with a dream schedule, ambitiously full of the authors she would love to have, then begins approaching speakers. Ideally, the organisers will use any contacts they have and approach the author themselves, but if that fails they will go through publicists, then agents. Some publicists will work a deal whereby a festival can have one author if they feature another, and festivals also receive incoming pitches so there is a big balancing act (and a whole load of tact!) involved in scheduling. Jenny also likes to book things in pairs so that the public are enticed by more than one event and pull people in with ticket bundles. She even finds alternative authors through Amazon recommendations!

From a marketing perspective, Matt and Jenny both agreed that a printed brochure is essential because people like to have something to physically flick through, and that nothing boosts attendance like word of mouth and social media. If you build a relationship with your audience they will trust in the value of your festival.

And, of course, the talk soon turned to author fees. Swindon ensures that every author is offered the Society of Authors recommended £150, although they do offer different amounts to different authors depending on their profile and means of income.

Chip Lit Fest, however, are doing something unique. In 2015 they launched a profit-share model and, whilst this can make initial planning difficult, this system means that the crowd-pulling events help to support valuable free events such as school visits. Whilst in 2015 they could only offer each author £102 (well below he recommended amount) they can at least say that they are fair and working to their means and Jenny hopes that this fee will increase in future.

Find out more about what the audience thought using the hashtag #SYPLitFeast, and check out what the festivals have to offer on heir websites:

Swindon Festival of Literature: www.swindonfestivalofliterature.co.uk

ChipLitFest: www.chiplitfest.com

 

Review: Girl on the Train

Nothing is better than a receiving book as a Christmas present. Unless it is a beautifully designed hardback book.

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Lauded as the new Gone Girl, it was little surprise when New York Times Bestseller Girl on the Train took the UK by storm last year.

Paula Hawkin’s tapped into the current thirst for dark psychological thrillers, flawed female protagonists and unreliable narration to create this engrossing yet maddening novel.

Since her marriage ended in a fog of drunken rage and violence, Rachel has slipped further into alcoholism whilst her husband has moved his new wife and daughter into the home she had made for them. The story is largely told from Rachel’s perspective – her life slowly falling apart while she sits back on the train everyday, pierces open another can of gin and tonic, and fantasizes about the lives she can see from the window.

When Megan, a woman who Rachel often watches, goes missing, Rachel might be the person who holds the key to what happened to her. If only she could remember what she saw that night, or if she could stay sober long enough to retrace her steps and piece it all together.

Scattered between Rachel’s narrative are excerpts from Megan before she disappeared and the occasional insights from Anna, the new wife. This structure adds further layers to the plot and positions the reader as detective, tasked with pulling together what is relevant and reliable.IMG_3942

Whilst the mystery is gripping, what I found interesting about this novel was the way in which Hawkin’s positions the female characters. They don’t work or have their own ambitions, they all identify themselves by the men in their lives and are utterly scathing of every other female in the novel.

Rachel has completely fallen apart since her marriage with Tom ended and still calls him her husband and phones in the middle of the night.

Anna seems to have no life outside her husband, her child and her hatred of Rachel.

Megan is always viewing herself through the effect she has on men.

Another difficult aspect of the narrative is the automatic judgement of Rachel’s drinking and the unstoppable desire to shake sense into her. It’s so hard to understand the effect that addiction has on a person’s attitude towards relationships and their own lives that it is refreshing to see it explored through a main character. Even as Rachel thinks she needs to keep a clear head, and about how she will feel afterwards, these thoughts are not enough to stop the pain pushing her towards the stale white wine stashed under the bed.

Judgement runs throughout this novel – of alcoholism, of looks, of people’s pasts. This fuels a perpetual sense of distrust that is not just felt by the reader but by everyone Rachel tries to reach out to in her search for Megan, driving the story in a constant back-and-forth towards the truth. The jumps in time and narrator further complicate the mystery that, whilst difficult to get into, does keep you guessing until the end.

The constant circles of the story are echoed in the design of the special edition hardback created for Waterstones. The train tracks provide Rachel’s voyeurs platform, they draw her towards the other characters and but keep her removed and pull her away again. Her pointless travelling back and forth on the train mirrors the limbo her life has become and the continuous tracks on the cover perfectly sum up the maze that works through the novel.

Red edge-painting completes the incarnation of the sinister this novel.

Whilst no character is likeable, Hawkins has captured some unsavoury aspects of humanity  and this fresh approach makes the process of unpicking the mystery in many ways more absorbing than the case itself.

 

Review: How To Build a Girl

Well, it’s been a busy 2016 so far but I’ve finally got around to writing up my first review of the year.Festive readings #DearPenguin

During the Christmas break, I was lucky enough to take advantage of Penguin Book’s ‘Festive Readings’ pop-up at Paddington Station. Selecting Caitlin Moran’s bestselling How To Build a Girl, I walked off with a nice early Christmas present and a hilarious read to carry me on my train journey.

Opening with protagonist Johanna Morrigan masturbating in the bedroom she shares with her brothers, Moran sets the tone for a novel that will take the reader through shock, laughter and recognition as they intimately follow a 14-year-old girl’s journey through adolescence.

And the very fact that it shocks is inherent to one of the problems that Moran seeks to address: the taboo of female sexuality. Initially concerned about her lack of experience with boys, Johanna seeks to become a ‘legend’ in the sex-stakes but soon discovers that the expectations of both society and the men with whom she goes to bed are not what she expected.

Socially insecure, uncertain about her future, and burdened by a family traversing the poverty line, Johanna decides to kill herself. Not literally but through a total reinvention of self – like many teenagers  – to shed her overweight, “kissless virgin” self to a London-dwelling music journalist modeled on Oscar Wilde’s niece, Dolly.

How to Build a GirlThe plot follows ‘Dolly’ as she works her way onto the staff of music magazine D&ME, fighting to make it in an all-male workplace which transforms her from an inexperienced teen to a drinking, smoking Sex Adventuress. Moran tackles the debate of why a man who is sexually active is praised whilst a woman is branded a slut, and also explores Dolly’s feelings about sexual pleasure and what she deserves.

It soon becomes clear through that she is building the girl that she thinks she needs to be to succeed, but in the process loses sense of herself in both her relationships and her writing.

Her journey to overcome the limitations that are expected of her working class background and gender explodes at one point as she defiantly tells one of her partners that ‘I’m not your bit of rough. You’re my bit of posh.’ Dolly knows what she wants and, although her journey of self-development is not smooth or straightforward (who’s is?), she soon learns to be herself in the world she wants to be a part of.

How to Build a Girl is a witty, refreshing and personal adventure in how to be what you deserve, not what people tell you you should be.

 

Review: We Never Asked for Wings

On the first page of Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s We Never Asked for Wings, the reader is faced with a woman in flight. She is driving down the freeway, indecision pulling at her at every exit sign she passes yet unable to turn away from the road ahead. Then we are confronted with the line:  ‘She’d left her children.’

9781743536896The impact of a mother leaving her children is instant. A mother’s connection to her child is often perceived as something so unbreakable and profound that cannot be explained to outsiders, and the idea that this woman has abandoned her babies strikes as inconceivable. What could possibly have torn her from them in such an indecisive panic?

Letty is in flight mode when her mother, who has held her life together since Letty’s teenage pregnancy disrupted her life’s course, moves back to Mexico. Suddenly Letty is left to not only fend for herself, but to become the mother she’s avoided being for 14 years.

“Migrating birds reorient themselves at sunset. The exact reason is unknown, but at twilight, just when the sun drops beyond the horizon line, birds flying in the wrong direction correct their paths all at once”. 

Thrust into an adult world of expectation, Letty must navigate her way through becoming a responsible mother, with a little girl who misses her grandparents and a wary teenage son who is curious about his unknown father and the feelings he’s developing for a fragile girl at school.

The narrative is told from the alternating perspectives of Letty and her teenage son Alex and what is most striking is how reversed their roles are. Letty is chaotic and indecisive, self-medicating her anxiety with alcohol, whilst Alex is studious and compassionate and is seemingly immune to the anger that most would feel in his situation. He also wants to be a hero which turns out to be his downfall.

After the shock of their grandparents’ departure, Alex’s world takes knock after knock. His mother illegally signs him up to Mission Hills, the elite school on the other side of town; he tracks down his father who didn’t know he existed; and he tries to rescue the immigrant girl he loves.

Budgie feathermacro photo with S110 through an element of a telescope lens
Jon Sullivan

A fascination with birds and the feathered mosaics that Letty’s father is famed for set the analogy for the entire novel. Alex has inherited his grandfather’s passion and it is his study of the uniqueness of each feather than helps him form a relationship with his father.

 

Threaded with themes of immigration, inheritance and finding your direction, this is a beautiful story of a family finding their wings.

 

#SYPconf15: Through the gift shop and beyond: an introduction to museum publishing

Following the engaging, global-looking keynote address at The Society of Young Publishers’ annual conference (which I have covered in a previous post here), the audience split off to listen to a vast range of industry speakers share their knowledge. We were faced with five different streams: Best Career Foot Forward, Let’s Get Topical, The Innovative Publisher, New Frontiers, and What Next For Our Modern Business?

Drawn by my interest in art and cross-media content, I headed to ‘Publishing in the Arts’ in the New Frontiers track. This talk was opened by Vanessa Garden from Tate Publishing.

Tate Publishing have produced titles covering Alexander McQueen to David Bowie to J. M. W. Turner, and often publish books to coincides with their collections. Museum publishers’ titles frequently feature in the Art Book Bestseller lists, but why do they publish their own books?

  • A museum has a brand and culture and publishing their own titles extends the museum’s mission.
  • They will often commission titles that are linked to collections and special exhibitions (as well as a dedicated range of artist biographies and student study books).matisse_interview_14635_medium
  • They are able to offer a range of titles to cater to all audiences – different levels of interest, knowledge, format and price. E.g. Matisse Cut Outs exhibition: Exclusive Matisse interview book, Cut Outs exhibition catalogue, Tate biography of Matisse, children’s colouring books.
  • They make available current supporting research and scholarship connected to the works.
  • Books contribute to the visitor experience: a physical reminder of intangible experience.
  • To generate a profit.

Whilst museum publishers may be less able to follow trends because of their need to align with the brand, they do have other advantages. Firstly, they have access a dedicated retail channel through the museum itself and are able to work with a range of experts from other departments to produce/promote their content. For example: working with the digital departments to create a multi-channel experience, or creating colour-in placements for the restaurants which direct people back to the shop.

Secondly, museums are part of a network of touring partners (where the agnes_martin_catalogue_16525_mediumexhibition goes next) and Tate will often sell on rights to the Tate catalogues. In these cases it is important to consider cultural differences and accommodate varying artistic and commercial preferences: different dynamics, voices, audience.
In the UK, the Tate chose a photographic cover for Agnes Martin‘s book but the cover differed in Germany where it was thought Martin was new to their audience and therefore required a safer cover that demonstrated her work.

Museum publishing does face it’s own challenges though. Cuts to government funding to arts have meant that many are looking at publishing partnerships, outsourcing their catalogue production to larger publishers. This way the museums still have catalogues, and may even be able to sell more, however, they lose the intellectual property rights to their content.

Another threat is digitalisation. Whilst some of the Tate’s backlist has been digitised and they have created some apps (mainly children’s), illustrated books still struggle in this format and they are looking to work closer with the Tate gallery’s digital projects to counter this.

We then heard from Emily Ardizzone, Digital Fashion Projects at Bloomsbury.

From studying fashion to interning for fashion/textile departments in museums to freelancing in catalogue production, Emily made it very clear that it was her subject knowledge that nailed her this position.

9781472580535.jpgAll books in Bloomsbury’s visual arts department are academic and so the majority of books are bought by libraries, academics and students. Interestingly, a large number of students of visual arts have learning difficulties so all books and products are published with this in mind.

Digital projects are central to Bloomsbury’s production focus (all visual arts academic titles will have a digital project with the next 5-10 years) and this is what Emily focused on in her talk.

The Berg Fashion Library is a huge online, subscription-based fashion museum, which hosts 30,000 images, 90 eBooks, and lesson plans. Through partnerships with museums, Bloomsbury offer a wealth of images, all contextualised with articles, linking back to the original museum website to drive traffic and promote the museum’s collections. This goes to show how collaboration can enhance content.

70,000 slides are being digitized, dating from 1970s-2000s, covering key moments in recent fashion history including McQueen’s graduate collection and the rise of the supermodel. Unlike other collections, these will not be heavily curated and will give a more balanced and insightful view of the clothes and models’ movement and expression. All images are also being tagged with Berg Fashion Library’s own taxonomy to make them discoverable online. Biographies are also included for every designer featured in archive – no matter how small.

The site is regularly updated with new content and new functionalities, and they are currently building an enhanced timeline to give full history of dress by country.

Emily’s advice:

  • Cultural sensitivity is important – some images are inappropriate in certain territories.
  • A basic understanding of copyright is a huge advantage.
  • Work with other departments – if the rights team think the title will not work elsewhere, is it a feasible project?
  • When working with authors: demonstrate a basic subject knowledge, engage, express yourself confidently.
  • Formal digital skills may not be essential but a knowledge of user experience and site design is valuable. You could review websites as practise, or even review the site of a company your applying for.

This session gave a fantastic insight into areas of publishing that many don’t consider. But even if arts publishing isn’t for you, the attitude towards collaboration, innovation and digital can inspire everyone.

#SYPconf15: Marketing and social media: what’s next?

This session was run by John Bond, CEO of whitefox; and Alastaire Horne from Cambridge University Press who tweets an blogs as Press Futurist.

One of the key things talked about was using a writer’s existing platform to build their brand and relationship with their audience. The ability to use social media to amplify their own voice means that sales don’t just spike with publicity but are consistently strong.

Here are some more great tips we heard for building up your social media:

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#SYPconf15: One world and how to defend it

On the 21st November, hundreds braved the frosty morning to assemble at the glass monolith of the John Henry Brookes building in Oxford. After the energy and insights from last year’s Society of Young Publisher‘s conference hosted in London, I had been looking forward to the Oxford conference with great anticipation.

We all gathered in the main lecture theatre, heads huddled in eager chatter as we rummaged through our goody bags and flicked through the brochure to plan which streams we were going to attend.

Marlon James-A Brief History of Seven KillingsThis year’s keynote address was delivered by Juliet Mabey, founder and editor of Oneworld Publications. This independent publisher has been in the news a lot recently with their authors Marlon James and Martin Ford winning the Man Booker Prize  and  FT & Mckinsey Business Book of the Year, respectively – so it was an honour to have her deliver her wisdom.

In 1986 Juliet Mabey and her husband, Novin Doostdar, founded Oneworld Publications with no previous publishing experience but a determination to build a global company: hence the name.

They started by attending the London Book Fair where they found Element Books who were looking to expand their reach by distributing other publishers books and a partnership started that helped launch Oneworld as a nonfiction publisher. They originally set up in Oxford and started their first fiction in 2009, set up to mirror the values of their nonfiction and they have a high focus on translation. In 2010 they made the decision to move their offices to London for a better trade representation – putting their publicity teams where the reviewers are and the editors where the agents are.

Oneworld initially found authors in universities and coached them in their writing but now more than 80% (particularly fiction) comes through agents and buying from other publishers.

Mabey told the audience that the hardest thing about starting a publishing company is building your profile. You can’t get a big project without showing what you can do, and can’t show who what you’re capable of without a big project. One of the biggest challenges is to leverage the business against large corporations like Amazon but Mabey was keen to point out that they have no intention of becoming a large publisher, only to focus on each title and doing it well.

And they really are doing it well as this year Oneworld titles have been shortlisted for or won seven awards!

They’ve even set up new imprints: Rock the Boat, a children’s imprint whose title Illuminae has just had its film rights sold to Brad Pitt; and a ‘Literary Crime’ imprint to be launched in February.

Some other interesting insights Mabey shared with us were:

  • The Man Booker Prize and the Baileys Prize are the only prizes that significantly affect sales. She championed the importance of the Bailey’s Prize in giving women a space -statistically there are more male reviewers and more men being reviewed and although the majority of books are bought by women, the 3 main buyers at Waterstones are men.
  • Europe are ahead of us in having bookshops full of translations – it gives such a diverse range of perspectives and styles and stories. That is the way it should be and we should translate more contemporary fiction, not just classics. If you publish it well there’s no reason you can’t sell it competitively.
  • Discoverability is harder with fiction – particularly if your author is unknown. Status of author can be more important than content so you may be starting at a disadvantage when publishing translation titles.
  • Waterstones are trying to buy in smaller quantities and then restocking as required. They are also buying more high end products such as nonfiction hardbacks and coffee table books to combat online/digital sales and get more value out of expensive shop space.

We then separated into our separate streams for the day which I will cover in subsequent posts!

Freedom to write, freedom to read

The closing panel was extremely appropriate given the keynote focus on translation publishing as we heard from Hannah Trevarthen, English PEN; Saphia Crowther, Amnesty International; and Anne Beech from publisher Pluto Press.

images‘Literature knows no frontiers’ is English PENs motto and this panel was all about the fantastic campaigns they, and Amnesty International, run to affect change and defend the rights of people all over the world to read and express themselves. The panel also emphasised the importance of publishing the voices that need to be heard, even if that means taking on government bodies.

I thoroughly recommend you look into these organisations and the fantastic work they do but here are some key messages from the talk:

  1. Translation can open up new perspectives so it’s important to stop censoring.
  2. As a publisher, it’s worth taking risks. It’s an illegitimate use of the law to restrict speech but we have to trust our own judgement on how far we can go.
  3. The libel laws have changed to make it more difficult to silence publishers. It’s important to hear the voice of those who give their life for truth.

Review: Dan and Sam

For a while now I have been filing graphic novels into my mental TBR pile but just haven’t quite gotten round to diving in. So when I found a copy of Dan and Sam at the SYP Conference, I was so delighted that I wasted no time getting started. Dan and Sam is a stunning collaboration between comedian Mark Watson and illustrator Oliver Harud.dan-and-sam-784x1109

Dan Jolly and his wife Sam are pretty much the dream couple. Lovers and best friends, their life is about as perfect as it can get. But then one terrible night Sam is knocked down and killed by a car right outside the restaurant. Dan cannot believe Sam is gone. But then one night, as if by a miracle, she comes back to him. But it cannot last and as quickly as she appeared, she is gone again. Soon Dan realises that he must make a choice – to have Sam with him again, but just once a year, or to let her go – forever. A magical story about love, grief and moving on…or not.

This novel is so beautifully and painfully honest in its portrayal of grief: the way it leaks into every aspect of your life and alters your interactions with everyone around you, even those you love. It also represents the way you can see them everywhere and have to remind yourself that it’s not possible and the heart-tearing sensation of that realisation.

FullSizeRenderBut just because it hurts, part of you can’t let go of that feeling because at least the pain is a part of their existence living inside you. How can Dan live as if Sam was never there? How can he love anyone else when she was his world? How can he navigate life when everything about him is part of the ‘Dan and Sam’ brand? His life was so constructed and determined by them as a unit.When he sees the slightest glimmer of hope that he can make their story last, he grasps onto it even if it’s torture. I almost felt like this annual ritual and his blankness in between was a way of him torturing himself because he was the one that had stayed. He felt like he had to mirror Sam’s year long nothingness and only live in that one night.

Graphic novels and comics are often used to illustrate complex issues such as mental health, prejudice and politics. The concept of Dan and Sam is perfect for the graphic novel genre because Sam’s return can be seen as both supernatural and psychological. Dan is the only one to see Sam and it could be a self-delusion formed out of hope, loneliness, and as I’ve already said, torture. This idea is further hinted at as Dan begins to see a counsellor. I’m unsure as to whether the counselling was good for him as he was channelling all his energies into increasingly frequent sessions to just talk about how hard things were and fill the time until he could see Sam again. It was as if it was another way to have her with him in between.FullSizeRender (1)

The illustrations in this book are beautiful and what I like most is the way Harud has used colour only in the panels in which Sam has come back. This both shows her bringing colour to his life, but also enforces the idea that this could be a fantasy, a delusion that Dan has constructed which goes beyond his everyday in every way possible.

It has certainly reignited my drive to read more graphic novels!

Review: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize,
We are all completely beside ourselvesKaren Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is an insightful, heartbreaking but equally humorous exploration on humanity’s most basic elements.

This is a hard book to review because the hinge of the whole narrative hangs on the secret of Rosemary’s family that she has spent her whole life trying to shut away.

Once one of three, Rosemary is now an only child and her life has been shaped by the sudden departure of her sister, Fern, when she was only five years old. The sister that she had never been apart from – her ‘same’.

When a few years later her brother goes off in search of Fern, he embarks on a dangerous path that will leave Rosemary completely isolated, suppressing her families complex past until a destructive encounter with a rebellious college girl forces her to confront what happened to Fern and the role she played in it.

“Language does this to our memories—simplifies, solidifies, codifies, mummifies. An oft-told story is like a photograph in a family album; eventually, it replaces the moment it was meant to capture.”

The narrative style of this novel instantly connects to the reader. Jumps in time are marked using the world events that mark history in our minds, and Rosemary’s analysis of herself and those around her is in equal measure comically conversational and grounded in psychological studies. Whilst her upbringing is like nothing we can imagine, she talks openly about her motives, insecurities and inconsistencies in a way that is completely relatable. Her self-awareness of her awkwardness with people and her troubled relationship with her parents are touchingly familiar and yet almost clinical in analysis. She even manages to use this awareness to manipulate situations and protect herself.

The thread of psychology throughout is fascinating, particularly as it is tied so clearly to the context and to Rosemary’s past. It teaches us about how pscyhological discoveries are made and what they tell us about human behaviour in an eye-opening look at the animals we are.

But if for no other reason, you should give this book a read and find out the twist that is challenging reviewers everywhere.