Thursday, 19 March 2015

More American reviews—& the march of March

How fast is March going? It doesn't feel possible it can already be the 19th, but it definitely is, because today was the day of my event with Anne Sebba and Alex Clark at the Daunt's festival, which was so much fun. Anne writes biographies about real heroines (some more heroic than others) so we got into some fascinating discussions about what heroism really is; and Roz Dineen wrote the whole thing up on the TLS blog. At the weekend, I was at the brilliant Bristol Women's Literature Festival, curated by feminist powerhouse Sian Norris, on a panel with Helen Mort, Michéle Roberts, Amy Mason and Sarah LeFanu, talking about women writing today, and getting into some really knotty debates about what it means to be a woman writer, how we define ourselves, the choices we make, the creative communities we are part of, and, of course, what it's like to actually write. Though we had a lot of trouble defining that.

I've also been in and out of rehearsal for my play—opening SOON! More on that very soon...

I've also had some more lovely American reviews, and here, in no particular order, they are...thank you also, as ever, to everyone who has reviewed the book on Goodreads and other places.

"Addictive"—Patricia Duffaud at The Book Bag

"Like having a heartfelt conversation about life and favourite novels with an avid, well-read best friend"—Jenny Hagerty at AustenProse

"How to be a Heroine is a smash"—Grace Labatt at Santa Fe New Mexican

"Insightful critical...memoir of a lifetime of reading"—Jennifer Vega on Effusions of Wit and Humour

"Ellis rejects the notion that life just happens to women"—PopMatters

"Her love of literature, coupled with a warm, engaging style, makes this feel more like an enjoyable book conversation with a friend than some attempt at armchair literary criticism"—It's a Hardback Life

"The book every reader wishes they had written"—Shaun Byron Fitzpatrick on the Barnes and Noble blog

"Full of the same charm, wit and warmth befitting any good Jane Austen protagonist"—Kristen Zory King at Vegas Seven

"Nostalgic, clear-eyed, critical"—Dana Staves at BookRiot

Fascinating and enjoyable"—Kaitlyn at A Comfy Chair

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Snowdrops at Haworth

I'm just back from an amazing week in Haworth, researching my book on Anne Brontë; here are some snowdrops in the graveyard, lit up by moonlight. It's been lovely to come back to more very nice American reviews for How to be a Heroine from Patricia Duffaud at The Book Bag, from Jenny Hagerty at AustenProse and Grace Labatt at Santa Fe New Mexican. I was also chuffed to get a mention in Sarah Seltzer's piece about remixing heroines, and a fascinating-sounding play in New York, and to make this fun list of books Leslie Knope would have on her shelves.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Five Best Spinsters

I loved writing this piece on five best novels about spinsters for the Wall Street Journal. It's really an excuse to bang on about Lolly Willowes and West Riding again.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Operation Magic Carpet

I'm thrilled that the Polka Theatre is producing my children's play Operation Magic Carpet in April and May. Do come! Rosamunde Hutt is directing and I couldn't be happier that it is happening. If you've read How to be a Heroine, you'll know just how much this play means to me, and I hope it might mean something to other people too. It's for 6-11 year-olds and there are also "all ages" performances.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Seven Fictional Women...

I very much enjoyed writing this for the Huffington Post...speaking of which, How to be a Heroine is now out in America! Some reviews have come in already. Here they are, so far: 

"Like a warm cup of tea and a good talk with my closest girlfriend...a  book that sparked my brain and made me want to talk about the girls I've loved—Anne, Lucy, Jo—with the woman that I've become"—Elisabeth Donnelly at Flavorwire

"You'll love Ellis's enthusiasm and humour"—Caroline Goldstein in Bustle

"Witty charmer of a memoir"—Cathleen Medwick in More magazine

"A gem for any bibliophile"—Ms magazine

"Charming, gracefully-written"—Kirkus Reviews

"A rousing call for women to be the heroines in their own lives, and it’s good fun, to boot"—Bridget Thoreson, Booklist starred review


A book of the year for 2014 in the Chicago Reader.


"I felt like this book had been written for me"—Carole Besharah at Barda Book Talk


"Fascinating"—Rebecca Foster at Booktrib


"Feels like you're talking to a good friend over a glass of wine, with Ellis's charming and witty way with words"—video review from Abby Reads (my first video review!)


"This memoir...will be the soundtrack to Belle's new reading life"—Dana Staves in Book Riot


"I love the whole premise of this book"—The Readist


"Ellis[s]...reflections on a conservative childhood and how books offered indispensable companionship and insight will hit a soft spot for anyone who grew up reading late into the night beneath the covers"—Leah Dearborn on LitReactor


"Ellis relives her life, sometimes nostalgically, sometimes ruefully, through the novels which once enlivened her. The result is sometimes shocking, but always honest."—Kevin Nenstiel at Wordbasket

"Irresistible"—Meagan Lacy, Library Journal

"Poignant, hilarious and fascinating"—Carolyn Gruss at Kid Lit Frenzy

"I found myself delighting over this book and devouring it slowly, like a rich chocolate cake. For the woman finding her place, or the wrier looking to find her historical heritage I cannot think of a better book to lose yourself in"—Victoria Irwin at Fan Girl Nation

Thank you, all, & thank you everyone who's reviewed it on Good Reads and Amazon too!

Friday, 23 January 2015

The Books That Built Me

Picture by Helen Brocklebank
I've been a fan of Mrs Trefusis (aka Helen Brocklebank)'s blog for years so I was thrilled when she asked me to take part in her literary salon, The Books That Built Me. It was such a fun evening talking about The Story of Henny Penny, Anne of Green Gables, Lace, Wuthering Heights, Lolly Willowes and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and drinking fizz, and so glamorous I didn't feel at all equal to the occasion. Helen's written all about it, beautifully, here. Oh and Penhaligon's chose a special scent for the room, themed around both Lolly Willowes and Anne Shirley; it's called A Walk in the Woods and it was very very nice.

Thank you also to Moira Redmond for choosing How to be a Heroine as one of her best books of 2014. I really enjoyed this review of various "bibliotherapy" reads, including mine in Booktrib. And my first (only!) Italian review; grazie mille Giuliana Benedetto! This is my first (and lovely) video review from American vlogger Abby Reads. And I was chuffed that the Mail included the paperback in its must-reads.

Oh and I wrote this for my paperback publishers Vintage Books on how heroines can relate to your new year's resolutions, even if (especially if) you are wavering...

Thursday, 15 January 2015

A tour of some heroic independent bookshops

There’s nothing like having a book out to make you realise what amazing work independent booksellers do, connecting readers with books. So to launch my paperback I decided to bake up some masafan (Iraqi-Jewish marzipan; the recipe’s in the back of my book)...
...and have a lovely day racing round London, giving them as thank yous to some of my favourite independent booksellers, and finding out who their top heroines are along the way. Armed with a flask of green tea and a willing driver, I set off for the gorgeous double-fronted Muswell Hill Books, one of the shops I went to lots as a child. Tim’s top heroine is Madame Bovary.
Next, I whizzed over to Joseph’s Bookstore in Temple Fortune (I used to work there, and it’s much better for not having me on the till). Michael’s top heroines are the Dolls from the Valley. I was sad I couldn’t stay for shakshuka in the café...
...but it was time to head to West End Lane Books, where they’d laid on elevenses (Lebanese date ma’amoul and coffee). Danny’s top heroine is Flora Poste. I resisted the urge to curl up in the children's section... 
...and headed into town, to Watermark Books, an oasis of calm and literature in the frenzy of King’s Cross Station. Jane's top heroine is Nella from The Miniaturist. Next, I rushed through pouring rain to...
...the LRB Bookshop. David's top heroine is non-fictional—the mighty Dervla Murphy. But he did also flirt with the idea of choosing Grendel's mother, and/or Effie Briest. I nobly ignored the tempting cakes to race over to...
...Daunt’s Marylebone. Natasha's top heroine is Mary Lennox (and isn't this a beautiful edition of the book?). 
Heading west, I dropped in on Lutyens & Rubinstein in Notting Hill—where I had my book launch last year. Tara's top heroine is Jo March. A stylish choice for a very stylish bookshop.
And finally, I went to Slightly Foxed in Gloucester Road. Anna's top heroine is Matilda, and Charlotte's is Margarita: a very quirky duo.
And finally, here is my hero, Jude Cook (who did all the driving, and whose novel Byron Easy I hugely recommend), with his heroines, Moll Flanders and Fanny Price.
It was a fantastic day, full of bookish conversations with passionate, knowledgeable, creative, hard-working and HEROIC booksellers. I only wish I could have gone to more indie bookshops. In fact, I wish I could go to every shop on this (free!) map I got at Lutyens & Rubinstein.
Thank you everyone for having me.