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The 6pm Frazzled Mums' Club by Nina Manning #Review

I am delighted to be part of the celebrations for the publication of Nina Manning's The 6pm Frazzled Mums' Club . It was published by Boldwood Books on September 26th.     Whatever the question, the answer is wine! They’ve swapped the dark and lonely baby days for school gate chaos, but Aisha, Sophy and Mel are discovering that there are new parenting pitfalls just waiting for them… Influencer Sophy, is trying to keep on top of home and work life but is finding it all a bit tough! Everyone thinks she’s living her best life, but the pressure to maintain perfection at the school gates when all she wants to do is cry, is taking its toll on Sophy. Aisha doesn’t know what to do with all her spare time now her twins are at school. Maybe it’s time to focus on herself and the dreams she’s put on hold? But when her mum suddenly begins to feel unwell, Aisha has to rethink everything. And when Mel is offered a chance to live her dream, she grabs it with both hands. But there’

The Body Lies by Jo Baker #Extract #Giveaway

Today I am pleased to have an extract for you from Jo Baker's latest novel, The Body Lies. It sounds an intriguing read - a mixture of contemporary literary novel and thriller. I also have a great Giveaway for you with the chance to win a print copy of the book. Details on how to enter are at the foot of this post.
 

When a young writer accepts a job at a university in the remote countryside, it’s meant to be a fresh start, away from the big city and the scene of a violent assault she’s desperate to forget. But when one of her students starts sending in chapters from his novel that blur the lines between fiction and reality, the professor recognises herself as the main character in his book - and he has written her a horrific fate.



Will she be able to stop life imitating art before it's too late?



At once a breathless battle-of-wits and a disarming exploration of sexual politics, The Body Lies is an essential book for our times.

Extract



‘Hey,’ he said.


‘Hello again.’

‘Yeah. Huh. Awkward.’ He was the picture of flustered good manners. ‘I didn’t realise you were new here. Obviously. We all are.’ He tapped his name-badge. Nicholas Palmer. ‘I thought you were a student, that day, on the square.’

‘It’s the way I dress, isn’t it. I’m just too scruffy to be staff.’

‘You can’t be too scruffy to be staff. Just. You just look too young.’

I laughed outright.

‘Seriously,’ he said; ‘Doesn’t she – ’ he peered in at Meryl’s name badge. ‘Meryl?”

Meryl smiled, happy to be drawn in. ‘Totally,’ she agreed.

‘I’m thirty-three,’ I said.

‘You don’t look it.’

‘You should see the portrait in my attic.’

Meryl laughed delightedly at this; he smiled, but looked at me steadily as if he was checking me for signs of thirty-threeness. I felt a little pink under his scrutiny. I felt a little flattered. What was he? Twenty four, twenty five? No older than that, certainly. And then he turned to Meryl, and offered her his hand.

‘It’s good to meet you, Meryl.’

Meryl lifted her hand to take his, then noticed that the fingers were still dusty with Wotsit pollen. She set her glass down and brushed them clean, and offered her hand again. He took it, met her gaze steadily, and with a smile climbing one cheek. She blushed. 

 ‘Back home you get a bunch of napkins with everything,’ she said. A full-body blush blotching her chest, rising up her neck, flooding her cheeks. I wondered if he knew that he was doing it, or if it was just a reflex: the need to make women think that he really, really noticed them.

‘Ah well, you see, they’re still on ration here,’ I said.

She boggled at me: ‘Not really.’

I turned to Nicholas. ‘Meryl was just telling me about her novel: it sounds exciting. What are you working on, Nicholas?’

‘It’s not so easy to talk about.’

‘You’re going to have to get used to talking about it, if you’re doing the MA.’

‘Well, yes.’

‘And there’s no time like the present,’ I said. I suppose I wanted to put him on the back foot, after he’d backfooted the two of us by being all interested and noticing.

He hesitated, placing his words like they were seeds in a tray: ‘I’ve been working on it for a long time. I have a good part of it written. The idea of the MA, for me, is that it’ll give me structure, enable me to complete it.’

‘And what’s it about, your novel?’

‘I don’t even know if it is a novel. It really depends on what you mean by ‘novel’. And as for ‘about’, I think that’s a bit limiting, don’t you? I mean, as a question.’

‘Oh-kay.’ I was so conscious of Meryl’s assessing gaze, the way she drank everything in. I felt like my soul was being weighed against a feather.

‘So, how about this. Tell me three things about the thing you’re writing.’ I tried.

‘Yeah,’ he said slowly. ‘So. I’m interested in experimentation….’

‘Are we talking GCSE Chemistry here, or are we talking Hadron Collider?’ 

‘Definitely Cerne,’he said. ‘I’m interested in pushing the form, pushing my writing as far as it will go. What I’m doing hasn’t been done before. People rehash Beckett or Joyce every day, and that’s…’ he shook his head.

‘That’s not your thing?’

‘No. Because I’m not a fucking impressionist.’

The swearword made Meryl flinch. I found myself liking him more: I really found it quite charming, his innocent arrogance; he was shooting for immortal transcendence, with no real idea of how difficult it is to achieve even mediocrity.

‘So what is your thing?’ I asked. ‘It’s not a novel. It’s experimental.

 It’s not like Beckett or Joyce. So what is it?’

‘It’s,’ he shrugged. ‘Well. I guess it’s Art.’ And then he grinned: ‘That’s your three things right there now,’ he said.

I laughed outright; couldn’t help myself. ‘I look forward to reading it.’

‘I look forward to you reading it too.’

Meryl opened her mouth to add her enthusiasm to the chorus, but Nicholas spoke across her:

‘I’ve read yours,’ he said looking at me.

I kept my poker face. I stared him out. ‘Oh yes.’

‘It’s quite a read.’

‘Thanks.’

‘Based on your own experiences, I imagine? It has that feel about it.’

‘Not really. It’s fiction.’

‘Aw come on. You can’t write it unless you’ve lived it. You can’t write it well, anyway.’ 

I took the compliment with a tilt of the head; I’d had few enough, God knows. ‘Maybe. But there are different ways of knowing, aren’t there? You can know something emotionally, without having practical experience; you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Otherwise how would anybody write sci-fi, or historical novels?’

‘Yours wasn’t sci-fi.’

‘It’s more or less historical now.’

I wished I’d had the sense, all those years ago, to lift my head out of the total-absorption of its writing, and consider what the book might be saying about me. It didn’t occur to me, literally didn’t once cross my mind, until that excruciating phone conversation with Mum, to whom I’d proudly sent one of my comps, and who’d taken the whole thing so very literally, and couldn’t forgive me my own darkness, or the blame on her that she felt it implied. She hadn’t yet got over it. I’d lost my (touchy, stubborn, and sharp-as-lemon) Mum to two lukewarm reviews, pathetic sales, and near-complete loss of confidence in my own writing.

‘It had the ring of truth about it.’

I leaned in close, as if to tell a secret: ‘That’s the trick, you see. To make the whole thing up, and to still tell the truth.’

He tilted his head, ‘That’s not my deal,’ he said.

‘What is your deal?’

‘Wait and see.’

He raised his glass, to show us its emptiness, then headed off towards the drinks table. I turned to Meryl, eyebrows up: a kind of ‘What about him, then!’ expression. Her face though had gone all compressed and difficult. 

 ‘That guy is so,’ she said, and she hesitated and wafted her hand around, and we left the sentence hanging unfinished between us. 

We watched Nicholas over at the drinks table, where Lisa refilled his proffered glass.
 
‘What he’s doing, the scale of that,’ she said, ‘Kinda puts my little werewolf story in the shade.’

Bless her. ‘It’s all good, Meryl,’ I said. ‘There’s space for all of it. Whatever he’s up to, it doesn’t diminish what you’re doing; it doesn’t have any impact on you whatsoever.’ I leaned in and whispered to her: ‘Thing is: we don’t even know yet if he’s any good.’


About the Author



JO BAKER is the author of the acclaimed and bestselling LONGBOURN and A COUNTRY ROAD, A TREE.

Her new novel, THE BODY LIES, is a thrilling contemporary novel that explores violence against women in fiction but is also a disarming story of sexual politics. 


Jo Baker lives with her family in Lancashire.

You can follow Jo here: Twitter 

Book link: Amazon UK 

Thanks to Jo Baker, Doubleday and Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for a place on the tour. 

Check out the rest of the tour!

Giveaway (UK only)



To win a print copy of The Body Lies,  just Follow and Retweet the pinned Tweet at @bookslifethings.

There will be one winner.

Closing Date 29th June 2019. 





*Terms and Conditions –UK entries only.  The winner will be selected at random via Tweetdraw from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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