My Lockdown Books: Sixty Five

Juliet in Publishing by Elizabeth Churchill is a book I’ve added to my collection as an adult and it’s one of my favourite career novels.  I don’t have anything else by Elizabeth Churchill and I don’t know if she wrote more.

As we meet her, Juliet has just arrived in England from Australia and is on the train up to London from Southampton.  Serendipitously, she finds a job as secretary at the Iliad Press, a small but well-known publishing house.  Along with Juliet, the reader is plied with information about the book trade as Juliet moves from post to post.  If the book is to be believed, publishing was at a turning point (Juliet was published in 1956) and the Iliad Press, a small family concern is contrasted with the modern, much more commercial Symmons and Symmons.

Naturally, openings for women were few and far between and were mostly secretarial.  I’m just of a generation that didn’t expect to find discrimination at work although, of course, it was still there but Juliet, who’d have been ages with my mother, lived and moved and had her being in an altogether different world where successful businesswomen were still regarded with suspicion.

Until We Win by Linda Newbery

There are few things I look forward to more than a new novel by Linda Newbery or a novel set around the campaign for women’s suffrage so I was pretty excited to receive this.  However, I was beyond excited when I read the dedication!

Until We Win is Lizzy’s story, set in the run-up to the First World War but detailing a different conflict. The fight for the right to vote for women is at its height with the Suffragettes, led by the redoubtable Emmeline Pankhurst, prepared to do and risk anything to win.  By chance Lizzy meets Julia and Elsie and is drawn into the campaign.  Linda Newbery has a wonderful ability to get under the skin of her characters and she demonstrates that here.  This may be a short novel but it is engrossing and compelling.

Until We Win is a short novel.  It was commissioned by Barrington Stoke the superb Edinburgh publishing house that specialises in books for young people with reading difficulties.  They only commission the best contemporary authors to write for them and their production values are as high as you could wish.  I am always delighted when a book from them arrives on my desk.  You can find them online at


2012’s Bookshelf

The other day I was clearing out all the books I’ve received from publishers this year. Don’t worry; they all went to good homes. I dealt with the books for primary children first, as they were being given as prizes, and the picture books had already gone. So I was left with the teenage titles. One of my colleagues took them to pass on to a local organisation which is collecting gifts for young people who might not otherwise receive anything. Hopefully there will be lots of happy teenagers in Moray this Christmas.

But they’ll pretty much only be happy if they like dystopian novels or the paranormal/supernatural. Fairies, vampires, zombies, angels, werewolves and dark spirits of all kinds were clustered on my shelves. And I hate them all! I’ve never met one that I could enjoy reading about. I’m sure some of them are good books. In fact, I know they are. Take a bow, Joss Stirling. But I can’t get interested. Part of my problem is that I’m irritated by publishers jumping on the bandwagon and giving us more of the same – even when it’s badly written, plotted and populated. The dystopian novels aren’t quite as bad but I do think that they’re going the same way as authors run out of anything new to say. But Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy was interesting and I thought that Slated by Teri Terry was a great concept.

Once these genres were off my shelves, I was left with very little. Fortunately some of it was very good. Sophie McKenzie’s Missing trilogy was represented and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Similarly, I am loving Anne Cassidy’s Murder Notebooks. I’m surprised by both of these as I don’t particularly enjoy thrillers. But these are gripping without being a ridiculous strain on the nerves. More to my general taste were the historical novels by the likes of Mary Hoffman, Rosemary Sutcliff, Paul Dowswell and Marie-Louise Jensen, who is rapidly becoming a favourite of mine. And my small Australian collection: Garth Nix, Michael Gerard Bauer and Morris Gleitzman. I met the first two at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this year and they were as lovely as their books. (I’ve met Morris Gleitzman previously and he is too!)

Clearly there are other brilliant books out there and I do understand that publishing is a business and it needs to be commercially viable. But my wish for 2013 is that more publishers will be brave and take risks – and that they’ll keep sending me their books!