Monday, 17 August 2015

Nelly Dean

I reviewed this for the Independent on Sunday, and I loved it. It's great if you love Wuthering Heights, and it's very good if you hate it too.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Judging the Jewish Quarterly Wingate award

I'm so happy I'll be judging the Jewish Quarterly Wingate award this year. I'm looking forward to diving into a stack of books about Jewish life, ideas and culture. Actually several stacks; we've been told to bring luggage to get them home from our first meeting! This is both thrilling and alarming.

Friday, 31 July 2015


I reviewed Kate Bolick's book Spinster for the Literary Review (the review's not online, sadly). I so wanted to love this book. I'd loved Bolick's original piece about living a single life for the Atlantic. It feels like time to reclaim the word "spinster", and I was longing for a book that would really dig into what spinsterhood means. Sadly this is not that book, and the books I'd still recommend to any woman wanting to think about living a single life are Marjorie Hillis's breezy self-help book Live Alone and Like It, Sylvia Townsend Warner's Lolly Willowes (which is also subversive and very very funny), Stella Gibbons's Cold Comfort Farm (with doesn't quite stick to exploring spinsterhood, but it is a truly wonderful, hilarious book) and Virginia Nicholson's Singled Out, which tells the story of the many women who lost the men they would have married in the First World War and had to find other ways of living their lives. Though they did so for the bleakest of reasons, the energy and variety of their responses to their situations are truly inspiring.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

A Lady and her Husband

I was thrilled to be asked to write about the suffragette and social justice campaigner Amber Reeves's novel A Lady and her Husband for the brilliant Slightly Foxed—it's out now and available here and I'm tearing through it. This is Reeves, with her daughter. It's the only picture I've ever seen of her and her face is turned away, her secrets kept very much to herself. 

In other news, I do like how this review of How to be a Heroine docks a star because I've left out Anne Brontë—a very good point, and as the reviewer says, don't worry! My book on Anne is on its way.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Launching Mina hjältinnor

It's finally here! My book is out in Swedish (as Mina hjältinnor) and isn't it stylish? I love how the bookshelves are definitely Ikea, and knowing that Glaskupan means The Bell Jar.
Everything in Sweden is stylish. I got to go and launch it, kicking off in Umeå, which was pretty far north, though Sweden has a lot of north. It was too late for the northern lights (which make buzzing and clapping sounds!) but amazingly light; when I reluctantly went to bed at 11.30pm, it was still nt dark. It was Stieg Larsson's hometown, so at my event at the Umeå Littfest, we got stuck into how Lisbeth Salander is and isn't like Pippi Longstocking. And I got this T-shirt, which is about how there's more to Swedish literature than the Gothenburg Book Fair. You have to love a T-shirt that encapsulates a whole entire debate.
When I asked what the Arctic char I was eating was (apart from delicious), one of the Littfest team showed me a picture of himself holding one he had just fished; it was big. We had cloudberries (sour and sweet and lovely) and talked about Umeå's militant vegan punk rock past.

Then I went to Stockholm and (oh my God it's stylish; I felt like such a clump) met up with all at Albert Bonniers Förlag, my Swedish publishers, who are here...
We toasted the book and raced around talking about it. I even went on TV! You can watch it here if you would want to do such a thing. 

Then there was just time to go for a walk in the Djurgården, to eat the best cinnamon bun of my life
and to wander awestruck through the most beautiful public library I have ever seen.

I looked up at the wall of books and thought about how mine might soon be there too, and felt amazed.

1st June update!: I was on SVT Babel last night with Jessika Gedin and Håkan Nesser, and you can watch it here. It includes a really amazing mini-film in which I am transformed into a small blonde Swedish girl in fabulously geeky glasses. And if you'd like to read it, I was also interviewed by Pontus Dahlman in DN, and it's here; there's a picture of me literally looking through a glass darkly.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Stories matter

Sarah Agha & Gehane Strehler. Picture by Robert Workman
I wish I could dance as well as the cast of Operation Magic Carpet. (I am an extremely enthusiastic, though also terrible dancer, sadly.) There have been some really lovely new reviews of the play, from Catherine Love who says, "Stories matter. And so does this one." Of course I agree with her. And there's more too...

"Captivating"—John Nathan, Jewish Chronicle

"A well-paced play full of humour and colour, it keeps children glued to their seats"—Dunia El-Zobaidi, The Arab Weekly.

I also talked about the play on Midweek with Libby Purves.

It's on at the Polka Theatre until May 24th and I would love you to see it. Of all the plays I've written, this one probably means the most to me. Rosamunde Hutt has directed it with so much warmth and flair and sensitivity, and the cast have all brought such passion and commitment to it—and energy, which is not easy, doing two shows a day, what with the massive fight scene I threw in. Do come!