Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – The Literary Column with Jessica Norrie – What Bestsellers were released in the year of your birth?


We are coming to the end of the re-run of Jessica Norrie’s Literary Column from last year, with one more to come at the end of November with some great gift recommendations.. In the meantime, Jessica who was reaching a milestone birthday at the end of last year, shared books that were released in the year of her birth.. It is an interesting exercise to check which bestsellers were released at the same time as you were!  I was fascinated to discover that some of my favourite reads were in the list for 1953, including Seven Years in Tibet, The Go-Between and The Bridges at Toko-Ri…

Goodreads has the bestsellers for every year and here is my link and you can find your own..https://www.goodreads.com/book/popular_by_date/1953

Time to enjoy Jessica’s post…..

What Bestsellers were released in the year of your birth?

Ahem! Shortly I’ll have a significant birthday present from Transport for London of free travel on bus, tubes and some trains. If you’ve never tried people watching from the top deck of a London bus, put it on your bucket list. But I’ll need a book for those long underground rides. Where better to start a stockpile than rereading bestsellers published in the year of my birth? When I googled them I was surprised and rather moved to find how many I’d read and how they still resonate. (Do this for your own year of birth and see if the same thing happens. Obviously, I read them at appropriate stages in my life, not when they first appeared!)

The covers shown here are from the editions I read. Cover design fashion over the years is fascinating. Most of these books now look different, but they’re all still available.

My birth year saw some fantastically high quality children’s fiction, but in schools some pupils were still stumbling at the first post. So “Dr Seuss” was commissioned to write a book using only words from the first reader.  The Cat in the Hat burst into life, and you can read the fuller, fascinating story here

Having mastered that, children could discover  The Treasures of Green Knowe, published in the UK as The Chimneys of Green Knowe. I’m amused by a current Amazon review that says “There isn’t much action”. If time travelling 200 years for a rescue mission that includes climbing the chimneys of a haunted house with a blind ancestor isn’t much action, what is? Incidentally, throughout this series, L M Boston wrote quirky, independent female characters, including elderly and disabled ones.

Another female character whose ill health leads to wider worlds was created by Catherine Storr in Marianne Dreams. Just the book for any budding psychoanalysts out there. I now discover it’s the start of a series, but this first one is complete, weird, and memorable in itself.

An audience that would now be called Young Adult could learn a lot, as I did, from The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Anyone still seeking to know why single, intelligent, lonely and/or “different” women are so easily categorised as witches by suspicious narrow minded societies, will find the saddest and most exciting of well researched signposts here.

Even with a diet as rich as this, the child reader moves on, and I was pleased to be reminded of Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe. It was a first introduction for this white middle class first worlder to the richness of African writing, a completely new perspective for me in my late teens. Achebe’s prose is poetic, his story moving, his world evocative. This is the clash of white arrival against black tradition; missionary against culture; city against tribe. It’s still required reading; things are still falling apart.

To my shame, I’ve never been a huge reader of poetry. But the late teens were a great time to discover E. E. Cummings, whose last collection, 95 Poems was born in book form the same year as me. Try him. If you’re in the right mood, his stars and wordplay, his individual punctuation and eroticism and wit and wonder and poignancy will play your head space with. If not, leave it for ‘anothertime soonever’.

Off I went to university, including a year in Paris where I wrote my dissertation on Simone de Beauvoir. So I probably knew then, and rediscover now, that the first volume of her autobiography was published in English on New Year’s Day of the year I was born, as Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter. Looking at recent reviews, people (women, mostly) are still finding it readable, funny, perceptive, and angry. It seems the #MeToo generation could still learn a lot from de Beauvoir.

I have fond memories of lying on the sofa, heavily pregnant with my first child, gobbling up films that my husband gloomily predicted we’d never be able to watch uninterrupted again. One was Breakfast at Tiffany’s, so good that I didn’t bother reading the book for years. When I did, I seem to remember wincing at some of the views. Stick with the film, I’d say.

Skip two decades when I must have been reading other things. The daughter who’d have heard “Moon River” as she shifted about waiting to be born, was living in Palermo, Sicily, as part of her Italian degree. I had the pleasure of visiting twice, and The Leopard was an entertaining fictional guide to the history, climate, politics, gastronomy, and characters I came across.

It was fun discovering this list. Goodreads has lists of world bestsellers for most years – do have a look for yours. The guidance you get from the books on it beats any star chart. Oh, and there’s another important birthday on the horizon – Happy Christmas all, when it comes around.

©Jessica Norrie 2018

The Magic Carpet – Jessica’s new release.

Outer London, September 2016, and neighbouring eight-year-olds have homework: prepare a traditional story to perform with their families at a school festival. But Nathan’s father thinks his son would be better off doing sums; Sky’s mother’s enthusiasm is as fleeting as her bank balance, and there’s a threatening shadow hanging over poor Alka’s family. Only Mandeep’s fragile grandmother and new girl Xoriyo really understand the magical powers of storytelling. As national events and individual challenges jostle for the adults’ attention, can these two bring everyone together to ensure the show will go on?

One of the recent reviews for The Magic Carpet

I must admit that I got an expected but completely welcome surprise when I read this book. The magic carpet is an intricate and beautifully told tale of a school project and several families involved. Each child in the class has been allocated a fairy story to take home and make their own any way they wish.

The narratives switches between each family and each chapter is dedicated to a different class member. Diverse, intriguing and almost voyeuristic, we are allowed to peep into the lives of each family as they tackle the homework project in very different ways. All the adults in the story are increasingly distracted by events in their own lives and it’s up to the children to bring everyone together.

I adore that Jessica Norrie has given each family a very unique identity through circumstances. culture and race. Each relationship and situation is delicately written and issues are tackled with sensitivity but bring he characters to life. I became invested in every single child in this novel.

This is a breathtaking and addictive story about stories, families and children.

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Magic-Carpet-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B07TXZP2S2

And on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Carpet-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B07TXZP2S2

Also by Jessica Norrie in English and German

Read the reviews buy the books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jessica-Norrie/e/B01CEUZF26

and on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Infinity-Pool-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B011RA8QZW

Find more reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3270629.Jessica_Norrie

About Jessica Norrie

Jessica Norrie studied French literature at Sussex University, and trained as a teacher at Sheffield. Then she wandered into parenthood, told her now grown up children stories, and heard theirs. A qualified translator, she worked on an eclectic mix of material, from health reports on racehorses to harrowing refugee tales. She taught adults and children, co-authored a textbook and ran teacher training. In 2008 came the idea for “The Infinity Pool”, which appeared in 2015 (and in German in 2018). Her second novel “The Magic Carpet”, inspired by teaching language and creativity in multicultural schools, was published on July 22nd 2019, and she is working on a third. She also spends time blogging, singing soprano, walking in the forest and trying to move out of London.

Connect to Jessica

Blog: https://jessicanorrie.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessica.norrie.12
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jessica_norrie

I know Jessica would love your feedback on the post and it would be great if you could share. thanks Sally

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Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – The Literary Column with Jessica Norrie – Blast Off! -Opening Lines


Blast Off! – Opening Lines by Jessica Norrie. (2018)

At choir practice, rehearsing Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle, there was a massive crescendo and the pianist stopped accompanying to announce: “That’s known as a Rossini Rocket.” It really is, apparently. Respect.

It set me wondering about Rossini Rockets in literature. Huge, telling moments when everything catches fire and the reader can hardly hear herself think. Battle scenes in War and Peace. Anything involving Bill Sykes or Becky Sharpe. The fire in the picture gallery at Soames Forsyte’s house. Fires anywhere – think of Jane Eyre and Miss Havisham. The 19th century may have been better at this. Presumably, something sparks somewhere in Fifty Shades of Grey, although I only got to around page 53 when I found it in my cousin’s guest bedroom. Nothing much was even smouldering by then, so I went to sleep.

Rossini could write a telling overture too, but authors need a rocket, or at least a hook, right at the start. Dickens has the best opening line ever: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times” (A Tale of Two Cities). What scope he gives himself, with that, for anything at all to happen, in any possible way. The reader is agog. “It is a truth universally acknowledged…” is a Jane Austen opener we can all finish in our sleep, but fans of John Crace’s Digested Read  will note the whole plot is in that statement. With that sentence, Austen could have cut her words by 122,166 and still had the story (my thanks to My Particular Friend for the word count).

A weak opening line doesn’t have to be the end of sales and reputation though. Consider Marcel Proust’s “Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure.” It loses a comma without gaining interest in translation: “For a long time I used to go to bed early.” Don’t expect nightlife or shenanigans in these nine volumes (though if memory serves even Proust got somewhere, if only with his grandmother, before page 53). Yet over time, sales have held up.

Moving on a century or so, authors can still get away with an apparently humdrum first sentence, if it implies something’s about to change. Here’s Eleanor Oliphant: “When people ask me what I do—taxi drivers, hairdressers—I tell them I work in an office.” The thick paperback in your hand is festooned with award stickers. Clearly, the next 380 pages aren’t going to dwell only on the malfunctioning photocopier and the daily email avalanche. Similarly, to avoid boring you with data, from now on I’ll give only the author’s name with the quote. The works they come from are easy to look up, and whether you do will be the proof of how enticing these first lines are.

An author can be explicit: “Let us begin with two girls at a dance” (Maggie O’Farrell) or you can begin at the end and work backwards: “I am nothing but a corpse now, a body at the bottom of a well” (Orhan Pamuk).

I tried to emulate this in my first novel – “Adrian Hartman wasn’t expecting to die that day, so he hadn’t thought to make a will.” But Pamuk’s corpse makes a bigger splash. (A note: Der Infinity-Pool was published in German today! If German is your mother tongue and you’d like to review it, please get in touch. Adrian Hartman hatte nicht damit gerechnet…)

Authority with a sense of conflict is good: as Jean Rhys tells us: “They say when trouble comes close ranks, and so the white people did.” Or a statement with immediate denial, preferably containing an emotive word: “People think blood red, but blood don’t got no colour.” (Marlon James).

Fitting in both terror and desire is daring: “I am standing on a corner in Monterey, waiting for the bus to come in, and all the muscles of my will are holding my terror to face the moment I most desire.” (Elizabeth Smart). But Jeanette Winterson gets away with dull facts, the better to put a rocket up the following two sentences: “Like most people I lived for a long time with my mother and father.”

Most authors would be wise to use emotive words more sparingly than the genius Smart.

Here’s a selection: blood, as above, and war (here’s Robert Harris who knows how to grab an audience: “Major Picquard to see the Minister of War…”). Also love, heart, sick(ness), death/die, swell, ballroom, gusto, wedding, child, dreams, dawn, waves, not forgetting oddballs with overtones: my personal favourites include boulevard, wisteria/lilies, pitcher/striker, klaxon. Words can combine to kick the reader awake: “All at once the flat was full of noises” (Nicci French) or “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen”(George Orwell). If anyone wants to explore this more deeply, the author Kit Whitfield wrote a series on opening lines that leaves this article at the starting blocks.

I’m tempted to follow next time with a post on endings (as a child, I always used to turn to the back and read the last line first. I must have found it reassuring. ) The trouble with that is, it might involve spoilers for anyone who hasn’t yet had the pleasure/excitement/horror of reading my recommendations. Let me know in the comments below whether you’d like me to go ahead anyway, and meanwhile I’ll leave you with the last word, as used by Rossini. I think we’ll have to call it a Rossini Cop Out, but the music is sublime. “Breathe after men”, was the conductor’s instruction to the sopranos. Maybe it does have something in common with Fifty Shades after all. Start on page 77 and sing: Amen. Amen. A-a–amen. Amen. A-a-a-a-m-e-e-en, men. Amen (repeat and enjoy for 8 minutes 30 seconds, and you can see us in action on October 20th).

©Jessica Norrie 2018

The Magic Carpet – Jessica’s new release.

Outer London, September 2016, and neighbouring eight-year-olds have homework: prepare a traditional story to perform with their families at a school festival. But Nathan’s father thinks his son would be better off doing sums; Sky’s mother’s enthusiasm is as fleeting as her bank balance, and there’s a threatening shadow hanging over poor Alka’s family. Only Mandeep’s fragile grandmother and new girl Xoriyo really understand the magical powers of storytelling. As national events and individual challenges jostle for the adults’ attention, can these two bring everyone together to ensure the show will go on?

One of the recent reviews for The Magic Carpet

Ms. Mary Smith 5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely, lovely book 2 September 2019

I enjoyed Jessica Norrie’s first novel, The Infinity Pool and had been looking forward to her next. I adored The Magic Carpet. It’s a lovely, lovely book which offers an authentic glimpse into multi-cultural society in London. A group of primary school pupils are given a homework project to retell, with input from their respective families, some familiar fairy stories. As would be expected in a story set in a multi-cultural society many issues from racism to domestic violence are touched upon. I enjoyed meeting the characters, both children and adults, who provide insights into their thoughts and feelings and even a week after finishing the book I find myself wondering what they are all doing in their lives and how friendships may be developing.

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Magic-Carpet-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B07TXZP2S2

And on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Carpet-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B07TXZP2S2

Also by Jessica Norrie in English and German

Read the reviews buy the books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jessica-Norrie/e/B01CEUZF26

and on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Infinity-Pool-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B011RA8QZW

Find more reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3270629.Jessica_Norrie

About Jessica Norrie

Jessica Norrie studied French literature at Sussex University, and trained as a teacher at Sheffield. Then she wandered into parenthood, told her now grown up children stories, and heard theirs. A qualified translator, she worked on an eclectic mix of material, from health reports on racehorses to harrowing refugee tales. She taught adults and children, co-authored a textbook and ran teacher training. In 2008 came the idea for “The Infinity Pool”, which appeared in 2015 (and in German in 2018). Her second novel “The Magic Carpet”, inspired by teaching language and creativity in multicultural schools, was published on July 22nd 2019, and she is working on a third. She also spends time blogging, singing soprano, walking in the forest and trying to move out of London.

Connect to Jessica

Blog: https://jessicanorrie.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessica.norrie.12
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jessica_norrie

I know Jessica would love your feedback on the post and it would be great if you could share. thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Book Reviews – The Magic Carpet by Jessica Norrie


I have enjoyed reading Jessica Norrie’s The Magic Carpet this last week and I am sure that you will too.

About The Magic Carpet

Outer London, September 2016, and neighbouring eight-year-olds have homework: prepare a traditional story to perform with their families at a school festival. But Nathan’s father thinks his son would be better off doing sums; Sky’s mother’s enthusiasm is as fleeting as her bank balance, and there’s a threatening shadow hanging over poor Alka’s family. Only Mandeep’s fragile grandmother and new girl Xoriyo really understand the magical powers of storytelling. As national events and individual challenges jostle for the adults’ attention, can these two bring everyone together to ensure the show will go on?

My review for The Magic Carpet  A novel as diverse and intriguing as its characters.

The Magic Carpet is set in outer London in early September 2016, and its cast is a group of young schoolchildren aged seven and eight, tasked with developing the classic fairy tales into performances on Friday October 14th.

The children head home with their assigned stories with the wide remit of telling the fairy tale in any way they wish, involving whoever they wish, including family members.

The author invites us into the children’s homes to meet parents, brothers and sisters and grandparents, and for them to have the chance to share their stories of how they arrived in this part of London.

Beautifully written from both the children’s and adult’s perspective, we get to understand the complexities of integration within a multi-cultural society. It is not just about religion, colour or traditions, as within a single family there can be three generations struggling to understand the new culture, language and accepted practices of a society they were not born into.

Such as the loving grandmother struggling to communicate with her English speaking grandson as he shares the wonders of the story he has been given. A single father who is concerned about the proprieties of bringing his son’s friends into the home, and a young girl who sees a side to her parent’s marriage that will challenge her perspective on the happy ever after of fairy stories.

We also come to appreciate the role of teachers at primary schools, who patiently prepare the children from these diverse backgrounds, and with varying language skills, for their future as part of society.

The story culminates with the performances and the interpretations the children have brought to the classic fairy tales. We also discover the impact of this simple exercise has had on the dynamics of the families involved and the changes in perception it has achieved. Demonstrating it is the children, who have the power to bring the generations and different cultures together.

Highly recommended.

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Magic-Carpet-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B07TXZP2S2

And on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Carpet-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B07TXZP2S2

Also by Jessica Norrie in English and German

Read the reviews buy the books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jessica-Norrie/e/B01CEUZF26

and on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Infinity-Pool-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B011RA8QZW

Find more reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3270629.Jessica_Norrie

About Jessica Norrie

Jessica Norrie studied French literature at Sussex University, and trained as a teacher at Sheffield. Then she wandered into parenthood, told her now grown up children stories, and heard theirs. A qualified translator, she worked on an eclectic mix of material, from health reports on racehorses to harrowing refugee tales. She taught adults and children, co-authored a textbook and ran teacher training. In 2008 came the idea for “The Infinity Pool”, which appeared in 2015 (and in German in 2018). Her second novel “The Magic Carpet”, inspired by teaching language and creativity in multicultural schools, was published on July 22nd 2019, and she is working on a third. She also spends time blogging, singing soprano, walking in the forest and trying to move out of London.

Connect to Jessica

Blog: https://jessicanorrie.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessica.norrie.12
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jessica_norrie

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope that you will read Jessica’s book and enjoy as much as I did.. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Posts from the Archives – The Literary Column with Jessica Norrie – You’ve lost that reading feeling…


You’ve lost that reading feeling…Jessica Norrie

A beautiful thing is dying (not quite the words of the Righteous Brothers hit because of copyright laws). You don’t care if the book slips down the back of the sofa or gets left out in the rain; the hero can whistle and the heroine’s dull. No other story or setting would grab you either; they’re just lines of senseless words. For some time now, you haven’t been in the mood.

Instead you’ve got that rotten feeling. A lifelong, reliable healthy habit is failing you. With it disappears your route away from stress, your imaginary version of worlds where anything can happen but all will be resolved, and your escape from situations and conversations you aren’t enjoying. Gone too are access to laughter, empathy, information and travel, new friends (and adversaries), intrigue, entertainment and the luxury of shedding tears over something that never happened. You’re stuck in the real world with the fire doors locked.
Why does reading loss occur, does it matter, and if so, what can you do?

For me it happens when I’m stressed, or worse – unhappy, grieving, in pain perhaps. I lose concentration. Even low brow pot boilers (for which I have great respect) demand a minimum level of focus, and I can’t give it.

It also happens when external demands force themselves into my consciousness – not always a bad thing. I couldn’t read (much) when my children were small. My life rerouted to their time zone and responded to their exuberant or crashed out states – there didn’t seem to be much in between but it had been in the between times that I read. The children are taller than me now, and I’m reading again. Occasionally I read a novel so good I don’t know how to follow it – like the day after a special, rich meal when nothing seems appetising. Nor could I read when my job was demanding and the management unreasonable, or when my to-do list had more pages than a Victorian novel. I missed it.

You may be unable to read because of snacking on social media? But concentration is sapped by gobbits of other people’s trivia, or even snatches of worthwhile information, complete with comments, trolls and links to yet more trivia (or worthwhile information). This article on using social media at work calls it the “pinball effect”; the effect on leisure can’t be very different.

Even before social media, I used to find I could read on holiday in peaceful countryside, but not on city breaks where my senses were already over stimulated by lights, noise, architecture, traffic, food, entertainment…So during city breaks I give myself up to the art galleries I came for and leave reading for the aeroplane. In the countryside – well, the landscape tells its own story. That distant hill is a chapter with the next one behind, the foreground sheep are (restful) characters, and the path winding along the river is the narrative. People watching on the beach is a pleasure too, sitting in parasol shade before an ever changing screen of small stories. Or watching the waves, research has shown, leads the mind to a calmer and more creative space. To read or not to read – it doesn’t matter.

Paradoxically, it can be wanting/having to read that stops us, as when our attention can’t make it to page two of a book prescribed by a course or book group. Bookbloggers, wonderful people who review and publicise books without pay and get a lot of undeserved criticism, admit sometimes to feeling snowed under by the stacks their “hobby” has sent their way, and longing to read “just for themselves”. I’ve no patience with sites like Goodreads that encourage you to set reading targets, numbers of books and genres you’ll read in a week/month/year. We all have enough targets at school and work nowadays.

Reading should be a pleasure.

It does matter when stress takes away the ability to read. It’s a vicious circle because books and stories are exactly the relief we need. When grieving, I might find empathy; when feeling guilty or defensive about my behaviour I might find my reactions mirrored (hence my joy in Rachel Cusk’s  books inspired by her family life, and Elizabeth Jane Howard’s about mothers and daughters).

A bereaved friend found comfort in Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. Everyone has different books that speak to them thus, echoing thoughts and expressing feelings on their behalf. Everyone knows the rare clarity of being surprised by a phrase into a standing ovation: “I feel that! She’s telling my story!” Reading those books is as good as therapy (and cheaper). The account makes sense of our experience and we take another step towards recovery.

When the loss of reading does matter, how can you get the pleasure back?
If you are not reading because you’re stressed or depressed, don’t make it yet another thing to beat yourself up about (I’m saddened how often I come across this on social media.) Do yoga instead, or mindfulness, or walk in the park, better still on a beach. One day you’ll read again.

This blog post will appear at the end of UK Mental Health Awareness Week. Perhaps you need something channelled towards the feelings you’re experiencing. I’m not suggesting people with severe mental ill health should be palmed off with a book, but mild to moderate sufferers may have books prescribed  to complement medication. The Reading Agency has some good lists here.

If you’re not reading because you can’t find anything that interests you or the last book was a hard act to follow, try a change of genre. Forget novels: try travel, biography or history – they’re full of stories too. Perhaps you’ve read too much of the same thing recently. Try poetry – each poem is different – and relatively short!

If a book seems turgid, is there a film version? The film will give you entry points and help you visualise.

Remember old favourites. For my mother this was P.G. Wodehouse, for my daughter Harry Potter, for me it’s loved childhood books. If I keep mentioning the same names in these blog posts it’s for a reason: Laura Ingalls Wilder,  Joan AikenHester Burton.  But you will have your own. Bill Bryson makes me laugh, and the chapters are short, always helpful when concentration is poor. “...what is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without pictures or conversation?” – so look for illustrated books. Magazines are lighter; good magazines lead you back to good books anyway. Try Good Housekeeping (and its supportive book group).

We don’t always do ourselves favours. Is your reading light strong enough, are your glasses right, are you sitting comfortably? Is your phone out of reach and earshot?
Above all, don’t fret. Those who worry about not reading are not the people who should be worrying. They’ll read again one day. It’s the others who need to get on board.

Jessica Norrie ©2018

My thanks to Jessica for offering strategies for those times when reading might be the last thing on our minds… but actually might be beneficial in so many ways. Have you a book or author you turn to when you need to get your reading kick started again?

The Magic Carpet – Jessica’s new release.

Outer London, September 2016, and neighbouring eight-year-olds have homework: prepare a traditional story to perform with their families at a school festival. But Nathan’s father thinks his son would be better off doing sums; Sky’s mother’s enthusiasm is as fleeting as her bank balance, and there’s a threatening shadow hanging over poor Alka’s family. Only Mandeep’s fragile grandmother and new girl Xoriyo really understand the magical powers of storytelling. As national events and individual challenges jostle for the adults’ attention, can these two bring everyone together to ensure the show will go on?

One of the recent reviews for The Magic Carpet

Neville Filar 5.0 out of 5 stars A Fantastic Read 14 August 2019

Based on what is obviously a deep love for and knowledge of the teaching of young children, Norrie weaves an utterly engrossing tale of contemporary London life.

I was gripped from the outset by the vibrant reality of her characters and situations
The writing style is apparently effortlessly easy. Situations develop ,are resolved and all the time one is hungry for more . To learn how the lives of these people who I quickly came to love will turn out. And how the children’s plays will be received when performed

The book has obviously been very fully researched . Not once did I feel that she verges on cliche. I cannot recommend this book too highly

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Magic-Carpet-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B07TXZP2S2

And on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Carpet-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B07TXZP2S2

Also by Jessica Norrie in English and German

Read the reviews buy the books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jessica-Norrie/e/B01CEUZF26

and on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Infinity-Pool-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B011RA8QZW

Find more reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3270629.Jessica_Norrie

About Jessica Norrie

Jessica Norrie studied French literature at Sussex University, and trained as a teacher at Sheffield. Then she wandered into parenthood, told her now grown up children stories, and heard theirs. A qualified translator, she worked on an eclectic mix of material, from health reports on racehorses to harrowing refugee tales. She taught adults and children, co-authored a textbook and ran teacher training. In 2008 came the idea for “The Infinity Pool”, which appeared in 2015 (and in German in 2018). Her second novel “The Magic Carpet”, inspired by teaching language and creativity in multicultural schools, is published on July 22nd, and she is working on a third. She also spends time blogging, singing soprano, walking in the forest and trying to move out of London.

Connect to Jessica

Blog: https://jessicanorrie.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessica.norrie.12
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jessica_norrie

I know Jessica would love your feedback on the post and it would be great if you could share. thanks Sally

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Author Update – #Reviews – Jessica Norrie, Jack Eason, D.G. Kaye and Diana J. Febry


Welcome to the second of the Cafe and Bookstore updates for the week and the first author with a review is Jessica Norrie for her recently released book The Magic Carpet.

About The Magic Carpet

Outer London, September 2016, and neighbouring eight-year-olds have homework: prepare a traditional story to perform with their families at a school festival. But Nathan’s father thinks his son would be better off doing sums; Sky’s mother’s enthusiasm is as fleeting as her bank balance, and there’s a threatening shadow hanging over poor Alka’s family. Only Mandeep’s fragile grandmother and new girl Xoriyo really understand the magical powers of storytelling. As national events and individual challenges jostle for the adults’ attention, can these two bring everyone together to ensure the show will go on?

One of the reviews for The Magic Carpet

Amazon Customer 5.0 out of 5 stars Must buy 8 August 2019

East London residents, from three generations and different backgrounds, help their children retell a traditional story in an original way. But this isn’t the cosy novel you might expect, as it deals with issues including racism, isolation, depression, FGM and domestic violence, described through interlocking first-hand accounts. In the end though, the book paints a positive, heart-warming novel of hope and the good that can be achieved through kindness, understanding and creativity. It is a lovely novel and will resonate with all parents and teachers. Recommended.

Head over and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Magic-Carpet-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B07TXZP2S2

And on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Carpet-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B07TXZP2S2

Also by Jessica Norrie in English and German

Read the reviews buy the books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jessica-Norrie/e/B01CEUZF26

and on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Infinity-Pool-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B011RA8QZW

Find more reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3270629.Jessica_Norrie

Connect to Jessica via her blog: https://jessicanorrie.wordpress.com/

The next author with a recent review is Jack Eason for Turning Point.

About the book

For thousands of years, man in his arrogance, has believed that he is unique in the cosmos.
During the last decade of the twentieth century, the day finally arrived when a warlike alien species called the Drana returned to our solar system, intent on re-establishing their rule over the Earth once more. The last time they were here they left a subordinate race in charge of our early ancestors. When the Drana moved on to conquer more planets in the name of their emperor, the Khaz began to create a stronghold here on Earth, hopefully large enough to one day challenge the Drana. Over countless centuries all memories of the Khaz and their masters the Drana vanished from the minds of man. However, the Khaz are still calling the shots through a secret government they set up consisting of the world’s political and military leaders, as well as the heads of all the major business cartels.

Meanwhile, our New Zealand born hero Tom is enjoying a well-earned break, hiking through the beautiful mountains of South Westland in New Zealand’s South Island, totally unaware that he is being deliberately drawn to a specific place.

In a valley somewhere in South Westland, artificially hidden from the outside world he meets a dying race of peaceful people from another world called the Nephile, who are hiding from the Drana and falls in love with one of them. Through her and others like her he is made aware that everything we have ever learned or assumed is untrue. He learns that the ancestors of all the various branches of humanity were brought here from other worlds as slaves of the Drana millennia ago.

After being enhanced, our hero is tasked with bringing in all the other human beings, chosen like him by the Nephile, to be taken back to the valley in New Zealand to form a new species of Nephile/human. While picking up the various groups of humans dotted across the world, his actions inadvertently starts World War Three, days before the Drana return to reclaim the Earth, throwing the Khaz High Command here on Earth into total panic.

How to save the Earth and humanity from this nightmare situation? What kind of earthbound weaponry could possibly defeat the Drana? The battle between the army of resistance fighters, led by our hero Tom, and the Drana in New Zealand’s South Island, ends when a worldwide cataclysmic event set in place by the Nephile living in the hidden valley occurs. Will anyone survive?

A recent review for the book

Jack Eason takes some well-known legends and weaves a fascinating sci-fi story around them. We have alien races; some good, some bad. The story is about their battle for control of our planet, along with that of the humans who get caught up in the fight. Sides need to be chosen; allegiances made. The action is plausible and relentless, spanning the globe and leaving you desperately turning the pages to see what happens next. Yet, through it all, there is enough detail to show that a lot of research has been done, neither has character development been sacrificed for the sake of action. It all fits together perfectly, the ending is superb and brings this excellent tale to a perfect conclusion.

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B007GDUVNA

And Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007GDUVNA

A small selection of other books by Jack Eason

Discover all of Jack Eason’s books and read the reviews: https://www.amazon.com/Jack-Eason/e/B003MEA7AY/

And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jack-Eason/e/B003MEA7AY

Follow Jack and read other reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4026249.Jack_Eason

Connect to Jack via his website: https://havewehadhelp.wordpress.com/

The third author today is non-fiction author D.G. Kaye with a recent review for her memoir P.S. I Forgive You: A Broken Legacy.

About the book

“I hurt for her. She wasn’t much of a mother, but she was still my mother.”

Confronted with resurfacing feelings of guilt, D.G. Kaye is tormented by her decision to remain estranged from her dying emotionally abusive mother after resolving to banish her years ago, an event she has shared in her book Conflicted Hearts. In P.S. I Forgive You, Kaye takes us on a compelling heartfelt journey as she seeks to understand the roots of her mother’s narcissism, let go of past hurts, and find forgiveness for both her mother and herself.

After struggling for decades to break free, Kaye has severed the unhealthy ties that bound her to her dominating mother—but now Kaye battles new confliction, as the guilt she harbors over her decision only increases as the end of her mother’s life draws near. Kaye once again struggles with her conscience and her feelings of being obligated to return to a painful past she thought she left behind.

One of the recent reviews for P.S. I Forgive You

My month of memoirs continues with an autobiography by D. G. Kaye — ‘P.S. I Forgive You: A Broken Legacy.’ Although not quite a series, this is the second book by the author as she explores the impact of a narcissistic mother on her daily life. I read this before bed last night, and all I can say is that some people are dealt a very unfair hand in life. That said, it’s amazing to see how wonderful Kaye is handling all that she went through in the last ~50 years. What a great (but painful) read!

Imagine growing up with a mother who seems to intentionally cause pain for her children. The oldest of four, Kaye spent years letting the woman treat her horribly. In this introspective and emotional autobiography, we learn how and why she tolerated it. The memoir kicks off by letting readers know that the author’s mother has passed away, and this is the story of how she handled the decision whether to be there when the woman crossed over. Sick for many years, touch and go at times, it seems like every possible painful opportunity was taken to cause trouble for this family. It was heartbreaking not just because of what they went through but because you really want this to turn out to be a positive story.

In some ways, it does turn out that way… in death, you are often released from the troubles of the past. Not quickly. Not immediately. Not entirely. Kaye suffers to this day because of the trauma she went through. Emotional pain can be far worse and impacting that physical pain. Seeing how the author connects with her siblings and her aunt helps provide a sense of love and hope for her future. Kaye has a phenomenal way of sharing her past with readers… we feel as if we are there, but one thing is for sure — we were not. That… is fantastic writing.

There is a cathartic honesty in her writing style as well as how she processes the events of her life. On the outskirts, it might seem simple: (A) She’s your mother, you should stay and respect her, or (B) She’s been evil and nasty, you need to run away and forget her. Nope… Kaye fully provides the wide spectrum of all the scenarios that ran through her head, some positive and some not-so-positive. How do you make such a decision? Only a strong person can thoroughly see through the minutia to determine what’s best for both the victim and the victimizer (I might’ve made that work up).

If I could reach through a book to hug someone, this would be the prime one for it to happen. I’ve felt these emotions tons of times before when an author creates a character who suffers… but when a real-life woman shares the truth and the pain she’s gone through, it’s a whole different ball game. If you have a high threshold for reading about someone’s emotional suffering, I suggest you take this book on… it might give you the perspective you need to help others.

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01LWOYPRP

and on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/P-S-Forgive-You-Broken-Legacy-ebook/dp/B01LWOYPRP

Books by D.G. Kaye

Read all the reviews and buy the books: http://www.amazon.com/author/dgkaye7

and Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/D.G.-Kaye/e/B00HE028FO

More reviews and follow Debby on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/dgkaye

Connect to Debby via her blog: http://www.dgkayewriter.com

The final author today with a recent review is Diana J. Febry for The Paper Boy.

About the book

A stand-alone murder mystery featuring DCI Peter Hatherall.  A young mother brutally stabbed in a busy park in front of her son. A paperboy shot in an isolated farmhouse twenty-four years previously. DI Fiona Williams is baffled when her senior officer, DCI Peter Hatherall makes a connection between the two cases.
As details of Hatherall’s involvement in the old case emerge, her loyalty is tested to breaking point and she starts to question his decisions. When the murdered woman’s son goes missing the time for hesitating is over.

One of the recent reviews for the book

It is impossible to forget your first murder scene. More so if you believe the case in question hadn’t been resolved correctly. When a recent stabbing appears to have a connection to these events it is time for DCI Hatherall to finally explore the overlooked leads in a case that almost ruined his career. He can see things no one else can, avenues left unexplored that are now able to be reopened, but will his desire to prove he was right back then endanger the case, or had justice turned a blind eye all those years ago?

I do so love it when a plot comes together, and in Diana J Febry’s The Paper Boy, it certainly does. Pete Hatherall is back in this engaging murder mystery, not only tackling murder, but sensitive issues. I loved watching the plot unfold as Fiona and Peter delve deeper into the mystery, uncovering links that, if not for Peter’s past, would have gone undetected. This isn’t the first book I have read by this talented novelist, I love how the murder investigation and character development progress, and appreciated the attention to detail. There are parts of this novel that remind me of a combination of Morse, Midsomer Murders, and Lewis. This is a book you can really lose yourself in, and you can’t help but guess how the escalating situation will conclude.

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07RSLFWPG

And Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07RSLFWPG

A selection of other books by Diana J. Febry

Read all the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Diana-J-Febry/e/B00J7AG9U4/

And on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00J7AG9U4https://www.amazon.co.uk/Diana-J-Febry/e/B00J7AG9U4/

Read many more reviews and follow Diana on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5989441.Diana_J_Febry

Connect to Diana via her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/dianaj.febry.9

Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you will be leaving with some books under your arm.. Sally.

Posts from my Archives – The Literary Column with Jessica Norrie – Can your protagonist be too old to be interesting?


Can your protagonist be too old to be interesting?

Never browse Facebook, unless you’re proof against remarks that cause fits of anger.

Here’s one from an author last week:

“There’s been some chatter on other boards about seasoned romances—stories that feature heroes and heroines that are older; late 30s, 40s, even 50s+.

It was that “even 50s+” that got me, aged 59. And one response:

“I wouldn’t just read a book with an older hero or heroine, I wrote one… The hero in my first book is 38 years old, almost 39!” Well, jeez, that must make your readers sweat.

Reading on, I found many others thought 40+ was “old” for a main character, especially if she(!) was romantically intended. Some claimed most main characters in “contemporary fiction” were 20-30; there’d be no interest in anyone older. (I don’t know if they meant only in romantic fiction.) To feel the hurt I experienced, replace “...older; late 30s, 40’s or even 50+” with “...handicapped; mad, blind or even crippled” (I’m deliberately using discredited terms here). Not great, is it? Any better if we say: “disabled; mentally ill, visually impaired or even paraplegic” / “…gendered; trans, bisexual or even gay…” / “…minority ethnic; black, Asian, or even Jewish“? Cringing? But published fiction with minority characters doesn’t yet reflect the numbers in reality, despite exciting initiatives. Drawing attention to it is risky – (hello, trolls).

So I’ll stick to age prejudice, apparently also rife among authors. I went looking for positives: main characters in contemporary adult fiction who represent the “Seven Ages of Man” – “Ten Ages of People” works better nowadays. Obviously, some are too young for romance unless it’s illegal, but I’d argue that none are too old.

Narrator aged 0-10: Nutshell, by Ian McKewan. This narrator is under nought, he’s been in the womb for 8½ months, overhearing his mother’s dastardly plots and adoring her despite them (fuller review here.) Parts of my own second novel, currently touring the publishers, have a 7 year old narrator. I toyed with narrating it all by children, but limited vocabulary, references and understanding pose the problem that the range, however bright the child, could bore the reader. Dickens and Brontë manage it but they’re not contemporary and within their stories, their characters grow up.

Narrator and main characters aged 10-20: In The Dark Circle teenage twins from Jewish London are sent to a 1950s TB sanatorium, author Linda Grant showing contemporary pop culture through their eyes against the momentous social change caused by the establishment of the NHS. In Joanna Cannon’s much lighter The Trouble with Goats and Sheep her young heroines discover more about the adults in their small suburban close. There’s humour, wonder, and just enough fear to keep things interesting. For a teenage story from present day London, read the cheerful, haunting narration of 11 year old Harrison Opoku in Stephen Kelman’s Pidgeon English. You may need to get used to the idiom but stay with it – we ‘re right inside this naive, curious, endangered head as he lives his surroundings to the full. Romance? Oozing from the pores of Linda Grant’s characters, more in the form of pin ups for Cannon and Kelman.

Main characters aged 20-35: Need no further advocacy.

Main characters aged 35-50: To my surprise, Facebook was partly vindicated: there weren’t many on my shelves. Elizabeth Strout rescued me, with My Name is Lucy Barton.  Lucy is looking back through her life. She married young, her parents are old enough to die of natural causes and she has two just grown up daughters, so I’m assuming she’s in this age bracket. Small town Australia provided The Dressmaker, and again, circumstances suggest this heroine is between 35 and 50 years old. But clearly a lady never tells. Both books contain loving relationships (romance?) and much besides – social and economic points, parenting, travel, independence, memory, fear, survival, managing.  Rachel Cusk’s present age – 51 – puts her recent semi autobiographical fiction “Aftermath”, “Transit” and “Outline” here too. These intense, unnerving, truthful books cover the period after a woman with two young children leaves her husband. There’s loneliness, independence, grief, establishing a new home, family and other relationships.

Narrator aged 50-60 I haven’t yet read The Cost of Living  by Deborah Levy but it’s been reviewed everywhere. Like Cusk’s work, it’s variously described as semi-autobiographical, fiction, near fiction, memoir…but Levy’s ten years older. Will that make matters (even) harder, or does added experience help? Definitely fictional – fortunately – is Zoe Heller’s Notes on a Scandal, the narrator a bitter older teacher spying on a glamorous colleague.

As a teacher, I disliked the poor research of how schools function, but the characters certainly stay in the memory. It was a bestselling book and film. Heller was 38 when it was published in 2003; I wonder if she’d be more compassionate to the lonely older teacher now, perhaps allow her a meaningful love life?

Main characters aged 60-70 Maps for Lost Lovers by Nadeem Aslam follows the story of Shamas, his wife Kaukab and their extended family in Britain and Pakistan. These rounded characters disagree, love each other and find it hard to express, are shaped by their beliefs and experiences and try unsuccessfully to influence others. It’s all imbued with colonial India, partition, life for new and established immigrant groups, generational change and misunderstanding. These complex characters destroy stereotypes, in poetic language that, if you savour it, always tells you more. Less complex but equally moving is Rachel Joyce’s narrator in The Unlikely Pilgramage of Harold Fry. Recently retired Harold is a bit lost, until a call comes from his past and he tries to reconcile past and present loves.

Main characters aged 70-80   The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell looks back through Esme’s life, sixty years of it spent in a psychiatric hospital which is now closing. Within living memory, real women were incarcerated for the reason Esme was, but this book is not wholly bleak, oscillating between past and present, treasuring small moments of beauty and strangely full of love. I was going to suggest checking in at Deborah Moggach’s   The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel  (“These Foolish Things” renamed after the 2011 film). But the furious first Goodreads review reminded me of  Sarah Payne’s advice: “the authors job is not to make readers know what is a narrative voice and not the private view of the author.” The characters’ upsetting views are products of their time (memory tells me the film tones them down), but the reviewer’s right to be offended by Moggach’s cartoonish descriptions of India.

Main characters aged 80-90 In  Etta and Otto and Russell and James , Etta sets off on a long walk. Unlike Harold Fry, she’s not visiting a person, but aiming to see the sea for the first time. It’s over 3000 miles away, so the reader must suspend disbelief, but the poetic cadences lull you, the interdependencies and relationships cradle you, and the effect is deeply moving. Is there romance? Read and find out.

Main characters aged 90-10Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All. Is this still contemporary fiction, published in 1984? It’s very long, and views are divided over whether the male author can write the female voice. But those who love it, really do.

Main characters aged 100+ I didn’t love The 100 year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared – the premise and beginning were great, but then it was yet another implausible walk, including historical figures and an elephant. All the rest is absurd, so why not an elephant too? Nonetheless, I welcome any bestseller about a healthy centenarian.

As a Facebook responder I’d like to hug said: I’d like to think I’m still in with a chance for my heroism to be exposed!! I wouldn’t want to stretch the bounds of reality too far, but I haven’t closed the door on chances for romance, either!

I’d love more suggestions for these categories so we can keep his hopes alive.

©Jessica Norrie 2018

My thanks to Jessica for demonstrating that those of us of a certain maturity are not to be discarded as protaganists in novels, or as writers of books, that might feature spirited individuals enjoying life to the full.

The Magic Carpet – Jessica’s new release.

Outer London, September 2016, and neighbouring eight-year-olds have homework: prepare a traditional story to perform with their families at a school festival. But Nathan’s father thinks his son would be better off doing sums; Sky’s mother’s enthusiasm is as fleeting as her bank balance, and there’s a threatening shadow hanging over poor Alka’s family. Only Mandeep’s fragile grandmother and new girl Xoriyo really understand the magical powers of storytelling. As national events and individual challenges jostle for the adults’ attention, can these two bring everyone together to ensure the show will go on?

One of the reviews for The Magic Carpet

Amazon Customer 5.0 out of 5 stars Must buy 8 August 2019

East London residents, from three generations and different backgrounds, help their children retell a traditional story in an original way. But this isn’t the cosy novel you might expect, as it deals with issues including racism, isolation, depression, FGM and domestic violence, described through interlocking first-hand accounts. In the end though, the book paints a positive, heart-warming novel of hope and the good that can be achieved through kindness, understanding and creativity. It is a lovely novel and will resonate with all parents and teachers. Recommended.

Head over and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Magic-Carpet-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B07TXZP2S2

And on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Carpet-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B07TXZP2S2

Also by Jessica Norrie in English and German

Read the reviews buy the books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jessica-Norrie/e/B01CEUZF26

and on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Infinity-Pool-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B011RA8QZW

Find more reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3270629.Jessica_Norrie

About Jessica Norrie

Jessica Norrie studied French literature at Sussex University, and trained as a teacher at Sheffield. Then she wandered into parenthood, told her now grown up children stories, and heard theirs. A qualified translator, she worked on an eclectic mix of material, from health reports on racehorses to harrowing refugee tales. She taught adults and children, co-authored a textbook and ran teacher training. In 2008 came the idea for “The Infinity Pool”, which appeared in 2015 (and in German in 2018). Her second novel “The Magic Carpet”, inspired by teaching language and creativity in multicultural schools, is published on July 22nd, and she is working on a third. She also spends time blogging, singing soprano, walking in the forest and trying to move out of London.

Connect to Jessica

Blog: https://jessicanorrie.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessica.norrie.12
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jessica_norrie

I know Jessica would love your feedback on the post and it would be great if you could share. thanks Sally

 

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – The Literary Column -O is for Loneliness by Jessica Norrie


In celebration of the imminent release of Jessica Norrie’s new release in July, I will be sharing her literary column posts again every fortnight over the summer. More about The Magic Carpet later in the post.

Jessica Norrie explores Loneliness in fiction and also in recently published articles on the subject in leading business and science journals. When you have read the article, Jessica would love to have your views on the subject.

O is for Loneliness

https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1405259930l/18774964.jpgI thought I knew why my daughter gave me A Man called Ove for my birthday. I recognised this grumpy middle aged man who drives the computer shop assistant mad with his poor understanding, and grumbles about neighbourhood litter and other people’s driving.

https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1334848488l/13486632.jpgI was amused, then slightly hurt. Ove is less appealing than The hundred year old man who climbed out of the window, or Harold Fry who took a break from his mundane marriage to rescue an ideal from his youth.

https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1335816092l/13227454.jpg But by chapter 4, I realised my daughter hadn’t intended a dig at me. For Ove (pronounced Oovah in the audiobook) is less lucky than I am. Rather than write spoilers, I’ll omit the details of his family life. Suffice it to say, he’s lonely. “Ove heard his younger colleagues all laughing together.” Even when his misfortunes mirror a friend’s, they increase his isolation. “Sorrow is unreliable… When people don’t share it there’s a good chance it will drive them apart instead.” Ove’s loneliness is partly his own fault and partly from circumstances beyond his control, but whatever we think of his character, we have to pity him. My partner found the book too sad to finish, and for me the many moments of comedy came as much needed relief.

https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1493724347l/31434883.jpgThe relief didn’t last. My next read was the current UK bestseller,.Eleanor Oliphant is Completely fine Eleanor is younger than Ove, but even more alone. After work on Friday, she picks up two bottles of vodka to keep her company until Monday morning. Not that her relationship with her colleagues is great: “They hate me, but they don’t actually wish me dead.” Eleanor is highly intelligent (perhaps too intelligent, analysing and disapproving where others would sail past) with huge reserves of general knowledge and some limited self knowledge too: “I do not light up a room when I walk into it. No one longs to see me or to hear my voice. I do not feel sorry for myself, not in the least. These are simply statements of fact.”

She is formal and courteous, but doesn’t pick up social signals, so she dresses wrongly (Velcro shoes, and she’s at least forty years too young for the useful “shopper” she trundles about with). She’s clearly intended to be “an outsider … seeing the world in a surprising and revealing way”, as Mark Haddon blogged about his hero Christopher when explaining  The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time wasn’t a portrait of someone with Asperger’s.

https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1479863624l/1618.jpg In Eleanor’s case other factors have played the most disturbing and abusive part in forming her character – although her world view, which is sympathetically portrayed, suggests she may have some kind of high functioning special need too.

Eleanor is not a grim Scandi noir heroine, she’s younger than Ove, and the comedy is less black – there are numerous very funny episodes (the beauty treatments! The terrible music venue!) mixed in almost equal parts with the sadness. There was some sentimentality, some triteness, but without them this would have been a much grimmer book. On Google I found several descriptions of Eleanor as “delightful”. I wouldn’t go that far, and I’m not convinced she has a bright future, but having dug her such a deep hole, her author Gail Honeyman does provide a rope ladder, and I closed the book hoping she would keep her footing.

https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1501020342l/34836959.jpgThird present, third lonely protagonist! Isabel, née Archer, is the heroine of John Banville’s Mrs Osmond (It’s a sequel to The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James but you don’t have to have read the latter.) I struggled with this at first, as I’m not convinced Banville has much empathy with female characters. (In the second half when we meet Mr Osmond, Banville is much more sure footed.) But my attention held when I was reminded of Eleanor Oliphant’s narration: “There are days when I feel so lightly connected to the earth that the threads that tether me to the planet are gossamer thin, spun sugar”. This is echoed in Isabel of whom Banville says : “her presence here in the world was a sort of phantom, a ghastly revenant”.

Here’s the abuse too: Isabel “had got out of the way of being treated pleasantly, in the ordinary human fashion…for years and years, she had crouched inside herself, holding her breath and ever on the watch, like a child hiding in a cupboard from a capriciously cruel parent.” Eleanor doesn’t understand she’s wanted unless she’s given an overtly warm welcome when visiting her few acquaintances. The more polished Isabel has more friends, but repeatedly doesn’t know what to say to them, why she’s visiting them, or what they can do for her. “…her hidden troubles, clamouring within her for the attention of those who were close to her -but who were they?” She feels closest to her maid, Staines, but Staines refuses her timid overtures because of their different social standing. Right to the end, Isabel rejects friendship by being overly critical of the people offering it, condemning herself to more of the loneliness that she hadn’t, initially, colluded with as Ove and Eleanor do.

https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1502148606l/264.jpgWhy have loneliness narratives hit such a nerve? As we hunch over smart phones using emoticons to express our feelings, are we drawn for catharsis to protagonists articulating their isolation on our behalf? Society doesn’t understand them, they don’t understand society – does this express our own lack of connection? The UK government appointed a Minister for Loneliness in January 2018. The New York Times disagreed there was a “loneliness epidemic” but expressed concern about “social disconnection”The Harvard Business Review had loneliness as a cover story last November, and The New Scientist  flagged it up back in December 2014.

But perhaps I’m reading too much into it. I should stiffen my British upper lip, and move on. These stories simply continue a tradition stretching back from Hamlet to the Girl on a Train, via Jane Eyre and Pip Pirrip. The hero/heroine is lonely, or has some other mountain to climb. S/he sets out; scrambles over the foothills; things get worse; hero/heroine perseveres; companions, health and wealth are threatened or lost en route; eventually hero/heroine arrives at a place of comfort (or occasionally doesn’t). That’s all there is to any work of fiction, and I just need to get out more.

Your thoughts are welcome!

©Jessica Norrie February 2018

My thanks to Jessica for putting the spotlight onto an issue that clearly has prompted literary exploration over the centuries and continues to be an issue today. Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

The Magic Carpet – Jessica’s new release.

Outer London, September 2016, and neighbouring eight-year-olds have homework: prepare a traditional story to perform with their families at a school festival. But Nathan’s father thinks his son would be better off doing sums; Sky’s mother’s enthusiasm is as fleeting as her bank balance, and there’s a threatening shadow hanging over poor Alka’s family. Only Mandeep’s fragile grandmother and new girl Xoriyo really understand the magical powers of storytelling. As national events and individual challenges jostle for the adults’ attention, can these two bring everyone together to ensure the show will go on?

Head over and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Magic-Carpet-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B07TXZP2S2

And on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Carpet-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B07TXZP2S2

Also by Jessica Norrie in English and German

One of the many reviews for the book

Roses are Amber VINE VOICE 4.0 out of 5 stars Literary Fiction 

The Infinity Pool is a piece of literary fiction set on an island where a camp exists called Serendipity, where men and women can go to relax, regenerate and find themselves in fairly basic and primitive surroundings. The camp offers holistic therapies, fresh food and the chance to meet like-minded individuals.

The story opens with an attack on a key member of Serendipity, it then turns back almost a year. Adrian is a known womaniser and searching for a fresh injection of life he befriends a young local girl. Island villagers already dislike visitors to the Serendipity camp, they find them intrusive and disrespectful of their local culture and customs. There is often an undercurrent of trouble waiting to erupt between the campers and the villagers.

When the camp re-opens the following year, the leader fails to turn up. Magda, the camp’s head housekeeper makes sure the camp continues to run as best she can, but some returning campers are disappointed by the absence and the camp’s atmosphere degenerates without their leader. Relationships with the villagers heat up and become violent.

You won’t find cosy characters here, many were selfish and awkward showing how they didn’t mix well with the locals. There are several storylines vying for attention, and the ending wasn’t what I expected at all. This book is quite different from lots of mainstream dramas, but will draw its own audience of readers.

Read the reviews buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jessica-Norrie/e/B01CEUZF26

and on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Infinity-Pool-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B011RA8QZW

Find more reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3270629.Jessica_Norrie

About Jessica Norrie

Jessica Norrie studied French literature at Sussex University, and trained as a teacher at Sheffield. Then she wandered into parenthood, told her now grown up children stories, and heard theirs. A qualified translator, she worked on an eclectic mix of material, from health reports on racehorses to harrowing refugee tales. She taught adults and children, co-authored a textbook and ran teacher training. In 2008 came the idea for “The Infinity Pool”, which appeared in 2015 (and in German in 2018). Her second novel “The Magic Carpet”, inspired by teaching language and creativity in multicultural schools, is published on July 22nd, and she is working on a third. She also spends time blogging, singing soprano, walking in the forest and trying to move out of London.

Connect to Jessica

Blog: https://jessicanorrie.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessica.norrie.12
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jessica_norrie

I know Jessica would love your feedback on the post and it would be great if you could share. thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – The Literary Column with Jessica Norrie – Reading from the very start


In celebration of the imminent release of Jessica Norrie’s new book on July 22nd, I will be sharing her literary column posts again every fortnight over the summer. More about The Magic Carpet later in the post.

Reading from the very start

What is the beginning?

Before I wrote fiction and blogged, I was a translator, teacher and teacher trainer, with students ranging from 3 – 80+. I learned if a child learns young enough to appreciate different points of view through reading stories, the habit ebbs and flows but is never quite lost, with huge repercussions for how their lives develop.

Non-fiction can be told as stories too. The beginnings are usually clear, the plotting goes all over the place, the ends may be murky, but there’s always a story in there somewhere. It may be obvious – Henry VIII and his six wives, Harriet Tubman, Mahatma Ghandhi. Sometimes the story has to be disinterred, for example if it concerns people who were illiterate themselves or whose words weren’t thought important enough to record. But it’s always there.

The only time kids understand the world is when they read.”  Katherine Rundell, quoted in the Guardian. I think only is arguable but I’d happily substitute best or clearest. Never underestimate the power of even the simplest text to enable the process.

So what’s the first book I remember reading? Stand by for nostalgia!

Ant and Bee, by Angela Banner, was first published 1950. Perhaps it was the 13cm x 10cm format, just right for little hands, or the key words printed in red, or the clear illustrations pointing out exactly what those strange curly symbols signified – anyway, I loved the Ant and Bee books and gave them to my own children. Such simple examples of making sense of the world. Sadly, in my 1991 Ant and Bee: an alphabetical story, “G” is for “gun”. But the illustration, a toy cannon, is unthreatening, and more recent editions may have changed, as many illustrated alphabets did post the Dunblane school massacre.

I had picture books in various formats. Huge flat Babar books with curly script only my father could decipher. A wonderful story, now lost, illustrated in pinks and oranges, introduced me to the world of sultans, domes, minarets, and travelling on a magic carpet. Please comment if you can identify what this was! The Giant Alexander lived more prosaically in Maldon, Essex. Alexander was created by Frank Herrmann, a publisher who also brought the Dick Bruna Miffy books to the UK. I discovered that at Seven Stories, website of the UK National Centre for Children’s Books.

It’s invaluable to begin young to meet “other” cultures. Research proves reading fiction improves empathy, starting with children’s fiction. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s pioneer childhood was completely unlike my urban, sophisticated home but with her I found common ground – and adventure!

On chilly nights when I hug the radiators, there’s nothing like re reading The Long Winter to put my shivers in perspective. (I’m aware of debate over Ingalls’ depiction of native Americans and will return to that another time. As a child, I got another viewpoint from Scott O’Dell’s Islands of the Blue Dolphins.)

First edition Wikipedia.

My children, in their 20s, are the Harry Potter generation. I tell our story of one HarryPotter publication day here.

The J K Rowling of my childhood was Joan Aiken, whose heroine Dido Twite opened my eyes to child neglect, poverty, danger on the London streets, and inequality. What a strong female role model! Malorie Blackman and Jacqueline Wilson deal with such themes more realistically, but Aiken’s treatment within raucously exciting stories set in an imaginary historical period is unbeatable. Her words from the Joan Aiken blog sum her up:

“From the beginning of the human race, stories have been used…as magic instruments… (for) helping people to come to terms with the fact that they continually have to face insoluble problems and unbearable realities.”

Anyone a decade or so older than me may feel similarly about Narnia (there are contemporary questions about Narnian values, and I was surprised to find how racist much Babar looks now. But they remain ripping good yarns which I’d like to see edited for modern audiences).

There are a surprising number of orphan stories – I, Juan de Pareja  taught me about art and had a black slave hero. Janet Hitchman described foster homes and Barnardo’s organisations in The King of the Barbareens. Children have the right to loving, comfortable homes. Such children become confident adults. But if we want them to be caring adults too, they should have books like these. Hitchman was born in 1919: a century later too many children are still homeless or orphaned. We still need stories relevant to them: to help them feel valued, to reflect their lives and record the injustice they suffer, and to point the way forward.

My childhood books sound grim and worthy! But they weren’t – that’s the point about good children’s and YA literature. It mixes lessons with magic (The Little White Horse) (The Little White Horse); craft and tradition (Miss Happiness and Miss Flower) history (The Witch of Blackbird Pond) ), science fiction (The Master) or crime with spare, menacing dialogue (a bleak Scottish story I can visualise but no longer find). Some haven’t stood the test of time – Pamela Brown’s The Swish of the Curtain, Noel Streatfield’s Gemma – but I remember them better than the adult fiction I’ve been reading for the intervening four decades.

For children to understand this world, we must show them others – historical, imaginary, allegorical, funny. It’s even more important, in these days of staying in for fear of traffic, pollution and paedophiles.

It’s humanly possible for your childhood reading to be adrift of mine by 45 years either way.

I’d love to hear which stories formed you. Thank you for reading!

© Jessica Norrie 2018

My thanks to Jessica for this wonderful post that enables us to travel back in time to enjoy her most treasured reads. Stories that have stood the test of time.

The Magic Carpet

Outer London, September 2016, and neighbouring eight-year-olds have homework: prepare a traditional story to perform with their families at a school festival. But Nathan’s father thinks his son would be better off doing sums; Sky’s mother’s enthusiasm is as fleeting as her bank balance, and there’s a threatening shadow hanging over poor Alka’s family. Only Mandeep’s fragile grandmother and new girl Xoriyo really understand the magical powers of storytelling. As national events and individual challenges jostle for the adults’ attention, can these two bring everyone together to ensure the show will go on?

Pre-order the book for July 22nd: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Magic-Carpet-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B07TXZP2S2

And on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Carpet-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B07TXZP2S2

Also by Jessica Norrie in English and German

One of the many reviews for the book

Roses are Amber VINE VOICE 4.0 out of 5 stars Literary Fiction 

The Infinity Pool is a piece of literary fiction set on an island where a camp exists called Serendipity, where men and women can go to relax, regenerate and find themselves in fairly basic and primitive surroundings. The camp offers holistic therapies, fresh food and the chance to meet like-minded individuals.

The story opens with an attack on a key member of Serendipity, it then turns back almost a year. Adrian is a known womaniser and searching for a fresh injection of life he befriends a young local girl. Island villagers already dislike visitors to the Serendipity camp, they find them intrusive and disrespectful of their local culture and customs. There is often an undercurrent of trouble waiting to erupt between the campers and the villagers.

When the camp re-opens the following year, the leader fails to turn up. Magda, the camp’s head housekeeper makes sure the camp continues to run as best she can, but some returning campers are disappointed by the absence and the camp’s atmosphere degenerates without their leader. Relationships with the villagers heat up and become violent.

You won’t find cosy characters here, many were selfish and awkward showing how they didn’t mix well with the locals. There are several storylines vying for attention, and the ending wasn’t what I expected at all. This book is quite different from lots of mainstream dramas, but will draw its own audience of readers.

Read the reviews buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jessica-Norrie/e/B01CEUZF26

and on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Infinity-Pool-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B011RA8QZW

Find more reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3270629.Jessica_Norrie

About Jessica Norrie

Jessica Norrie studied French literature at Sussex University, and trained as a teacher at Sheffield. Then she wandered into parenthood, told her now grown up children stories, and heard theirs. A qualified translator, she worked on an eclectic mix of material, from health reports on racehorses to harrowing refugee tales. She taught adults and children, co-authored a textbook and ran teacher training. In 2008 came the idea for “The Infinity Pool”, which appeared in 2015 (and in German in 2018). Her second novel “The Magic Carpet”, inspired by teaching language and creativity in multicultural schools, is published on July 22nd, and she is working on a third. She also spends time blogging, singing soprano, walking in the forest and trying to move out of London.

Connect to Jessica

Blog: https://jessicanorrie.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessica.norrie.12
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jessica_norrie

I know Jessica would love your feedback on the post and it would be great if you could share. thanks Sally

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – New book on the Shelves Pre-order July 22nd – The Magic Carpet by Jessica Norrie


Delighted to share the news of Jessica Norrie’s new book that is on pre-order for July 22nd. The Magic Carpet.

About The Magic Carpet

Outer London, September 2016, and neighbouring eight-year-olds have homework: prepare a traditional story to perform with their families at a school festival. But Nathan’s father thinks his son would be better off doing sums; Sky’s mother’s enthusiasm is as fleeting as her bank balance, and there’s a threatening shadow hanging over poor Alka’s family. Only Mandeep’s fragile grandmother and new girl Xoriyo really understand the magical powers of storytelling. As national events and individual challenges jostle for the adults’ attention, can these two bring everyone together to ensure the show will go on?

Pre-order the book for July 22nd: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Magic-Carpet-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B07TXZP2S2

And on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Carpet-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B07TXZP2S2

Also by Jessica Norrie in English and German

One of the many reviews for the book

Roses are Amber VINE VOICE 4.0 out of 5 stars Literary Fiction 

The Infinity Pool is a piece of literary fiction set on an island where a camp exists called Serendipity, where men and women can go to relax, regenerate and find themselves in fairly basic and primitive surroundings. The camp offers holistic therapies, fresh food and the chance to meet like-minded individuals.

The story opens with an attack on a key member of Serendipity, it then turns back almost a year. Adrian is a known womaniser and searching for a fresh injection of life he befriends a young local girl. Island villagers already dislike visitors to the Serendipity camp, they find them intrusive and disrespectful of their local culture and customs. There is often an undercurrent of trouble waiting to erupt between the campers and the villagers.

When the camp re-opens the following year, the leader fails to turn up. Magda, the camp’s head housekeeper makes sure the camp continues to run as best she can, but some returning campers are disappointed by the absence and the camp’s atmosphere degenerates without their leader. Relationships with the villagers heat up and become violent.

You won’t find cosy characters here, many were selfish and awkward showing how they didn’t mix well with the locals. There are several storylines vying for attention, and the ending wasn’t what I expected at all. This book is quite different from lots of mainstream dramas, but will draw its own audience of readers.

Read the reviews buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jessica-Norrie/e/B01CEUZF26

and on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Infinity-Pool-Jessica-Norrie-ebook/dp/B011RA8QZW

Find more reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3270629.Jessica_Norrie

About Jessica Norrie

Jessica Norrie studied French literature at Sussex University, and trained as a teacher at Sheffield. Then she wandered into parenthood, told her now grown up children stories, and heard theirs. A qualified translator, she worked on an eclectic mix of material, from health reports on racehorses to harrowing refugee tales. She taught adults and children, co-authored a textbook and ran teacher training. In 2008 came the idea for “The Infinity Pool”, which appeared in 2015 (and in German in 2018). Her second novel “The Magic Carpet”, inspired by teaching language and creativity in multicultural schools, is published on July 22nd, and she is working on a third. She also spends time blogging, singing soprano, walking in the forest and trying to move out of London.

Connect to Jessica

Blog: https://jessicanorrie.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessica.norrie.12
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jessica_norrie

Please help share the news of Jessica’s new book and give it a great send off.. Thanks Sally.