Book Group Discussion: Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey

Our chat for March’s book Letters to the Lost was a busy one, with Iona Grey checking in from sunny Cheshire and her agent, Rebecca Ritchie joining the chat too. We were blasting Glen Miller throughout the office to transport us back to wartime London and delve into this heart-wrenching romance once more. Here’s a round up of all the questions for Iona.

Letters to the Lost Cover ImageOn inspiration… (Emma Crowley)

The story did definitely take on a life of its own as I wrote it, but I’m a minimal planner so I have to admit I only started out with the vaguest of ideas what would happen. The parcel that came in the post was from my lovely friend Abby Green, and it arrived the morning after I’d had a big, miserable epiphany about the book I had been writing, which was set in the Edwardian era, and was completely failing to come together. The parcel contained a signed copy of Life After Life by Kate Atkinson and an article Abby had found in a magazine about all the books that had come out on the back of the Downton Abbey craze. The article convinced me once and for all that the Edwardian era had possibly been done to death for the time being, and Kate Atkinson’s gorgeous prose reminded me that writing should be joyful and energetic and bring characters leaping to life off the page – all the things that my miserable effort was failing to do! That day I ditched the old book and wrote Charles and Stella’s wedding scene.

On casting… (Emma Crowley)

I’m so out of touch with film that I’m not sure who I’d cast. Lovely Theo James would make a great Dan, and the gorgeous actress who plays Claire in Outlander would be perfect for Stella.

Charles’s behaviour was totally in step with the attitude of the time, which is absolutely heartbreaking to think about.

On letters… (Kelly Rufus)

The idea of a story told through letters is one that’s always appealed to me, but it became much more real when my godmother died and I was faced with the task of clearing out her house. I discovered a tin of letters and cards and all sorts of other bits and pieces that really intrigued me; it was packed with stories that I’ll never really know now she’s gone. The way these things endure, giving up clues but at the same time keeping secrets, is endlessly fascinating. I think you can say more in a few words in a letter than in a whole swathe of narrative.

On the dual time frame… (Zarina de Ruiter)

I used the dual time frame structure for the novel simply because it’s my favourite kind. I grew up reading books like A Traveller in Time and A Stitch in Time and the novels of a fantastic writer called Nina Beachcroft (mostly out of print now, tragically) in which past and present met and overlapped, and I absolutely ate them up. I love the overview you get from looking back, and the sense of altered perspective: I think it can really heighten the emotional power of a story. It allows you to see how events that happened in the past cause ripples that spread down the years, which I find fascinating.

On setting…. (Emma Macey) becky letters

I’ve been fascinated by WW2 for as long as I can remember, so have been gathering the information I used in the book for a lifetime! I had two grandmothers and two godmothers who used to talk a lot about their wartime experiences, and I picked up details from their stories that it would be really hard to find through other kinds of ‘research’. I must also have watched just about every documentary and drama set in the period, and read every book, so it was all just there, waiting to be used. The war is always an irresistible backdrop to stories because it generates lots of external conflict: the events that conspire to throw obstacles in the way of Happy Ever After. Also the discrepancy between what the characters know, and what the reader knows (in terms of historical fact) provides an interesting contrast.

I visit London reasonably regularly, but don’t have a local’s knowledge of it, which was why I made up King’s Oak! London, and Londoners, suffered so much during the war and each borough bears its own harrowing history from that time, so I didn’t want to play fast and loose with facts.

On character… (Helen Redfearn)

I think creating character is such a fascinating part of the writing process. For me it’s the absolute acid test of whether a book is working or not, and I’d spent a long time writing a book before Letters that wasn’t, with characters that really refused to come to life. I’m not sure what it was about the particular cast that assembled themselves in this book, but their voices just seemed very vivid from the start. I think it really helped that I listened to people talking about the war and their experiences. Those first hand stories, and the voices in which they were told, brought my own story to life.

It hadn’t occurred to me that Jess was a later incarnation of Stella and Nancy, but I really like the idea. All of them occupy a position of vulnerability and disempowerment, but their inner strength enables them to survive.

The characters were definitely made up, though it’s always great when you come across a real face or voice that fits in with the one in your head. (One of my daughters is a great Paloma Faith fan and, hearing her speak one day, I just thought ‘Nancy!’)

Stella and Dan don’t have long together in reality, but they love each other for a lifetime.

On Nancy…

I would have liked her to appear as an old lady in the present day part of the book but  Will’s involvement depended on her having recently died, which was a shame. As to whether she’s selfish or frightened, perhaps she’s a bit of both. Stella calls her ‘a survivor’ and I think this is the key to her character. Fate dealt her a bad hand to start with. Ultimately she’s someone who puts head before heart, and material comfort before emotional satisfaction. I think she learned early on in life that love can’t be relied upon, so she’d rather have silk stockings and tinned peaches!

On Daisy… (Zarina de Ruiter) (Verity Wilde)

The reason for Daisy’s supposed death was because that was essentially the thing that stopped Stella from going after Dan for all those years. Daisy was her link with Charles, and the reason she couldn’t leave him. After the explosion, thinking she is responsible for Daisy’s death makes Stella so bowed down with guilt that she believes she doesn’t deserve happiness, which is what keeps them apart for so long.

richard & meI can’t remember quite how the idea of Daisy’s disability came about: I think it must have been inherent from the start somehow. For the doomed Edwardian book I’d done some research on asylums, so I knew a little about them and some of the terrible things that went on in them. It’s such a dark and shameful part of our history and it laid waste to the lives of so many people, so I wanted to include it. What happens to Daisy is the central tragedy of the book, and (for Stella) it puts her pain over losing Dan into perspective.

The saddest thing for me when I was writing the book was the discovery that what happened to Daisy was absolutely the norm. It would have been very unusual for children with learning disabilities to be brought up within the home, especially in families who could afford to pay for residential care. In that respect Charles’s behaviour was totally in step with the attitude of the time, which is absolutely heartbreaking to think about.

On Charles… 

I initially felt a whole lot more sympathy for him than I did by the end. He was in a horrible, horrible position. Not only was homosexuality illegal (and terribly shameful) in those days, but he also has the additional burden of his religious faith, and the knowledge that God disapproves of who and what he is. He loves Peter and he knows that it’s every bit as doomed as Stella’s love for Dan – and actually more so. He can never have the life he wants, and that’s a uniquely terrible thing to know. However, as the book went on he did get darker and less sympathetic, and by the end he was fairly loathsome. But there’s still a bit of me that feels sorry for him and understands why he behaved that way, and why he died how he did.

On the ending… (Zarina de Ruiter)

I didn’t really have any other endings in mind. I think I knew from the outset that Dan and Stella weren’t going to have a long and happy life together, so actually in some strange way, it made writing their story easier. There was a whole big, intense love story to pack into a few precious days, which made me aware that I needed to make every moment count. I think that was perhaps how it must have felt to live through those wartime years, so it added a sense of poignancy to writing it. Will sums it up when he says ‘Isn’t it enough to know that you’re loved?’ Stella and Dan don’t have long together in reality, but they love each other for a lifetime.

Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey was published on 23rd April by Simon & Schuster

Tammy Cohen on Self Doubt

Author Tammy Cohen’s latest novel, The Broken, is a chilling story of divorce and loyalty (think Girl on the Train meets The Husband’s Secret). Here, she tells us about that universal feeling: self doubt…

You wouldn’t know it to look at me, but I am a serial killer. I’ve lost count of the number of books I’ve murdered at various stages of life or gestation. My hard-drive and bottom drawer (let’s draw a veil over the stack of cardboard boxes in the loft) are a graveyard of unfinished novels, their narrative-arcs cruelly truncated, their futures un-played out.

81hqyXHj+DLI wish I could blame perfectionism or a compulsive need to experiment with form, but there’s only one reason behind the Killing Fields that are my writing history: self doubt.

Ian Rankin calls it The Fear – that horrible, bile-inducing conviction that comes to you somewhere between 10,000 words and 30,000 words that what you are writing is the worst thing ever written. By anyone. At any time. What on earth made you think this was a good plot for a book? Which misguided idiot gave you the idea you could write?

It was Iris Murdoch who said ‘every book is the wreck of a good idea’.  How wise she was. Before I start a novel, I’ve usually convinced myself my idea for it is the best I’ve ever had. Scratch that, the best anyone ever had. I can see it so clearly in my mind’s eye – this perfectly conceived and executed gem that will become an instant classic, be showered with prizes and awards and have other writers kicking themselves that they didn’t think of it first.  When people ask what my new book will be about I say, ‘I can’t tell you’, in an infuriatingly smug way, so convinced am I that everyone will want to steal my Precious.

My enthusiasm carries me through the first few thousand words, but then they start to crawl in. The doubts. They’re like ants – every time I block up one hole, they find another to swarm in through. Really? they say. That’s it? Your grand idea? Plot holes I previously glossed over in excitement become fathomless craters. The characters are ridiculous, two dimensional. Rather than leaping off the page, they flatten themselves to it like stickers. There’s a reason no one has written this book before – and that’s because it’s crap.

Author Sadie Jones, whose debut novel The Outcast won the Costa award in 2008, perfectly describes this agonising realisation that the book you’ve ended up writing is a million miles from the masterpiece you’d conceived of. “You imagine, before you start, there’s a cathedral,’ she said in an Observer interview,  “and the moment it starts on the page, it’s a garden shed.”

It’s at this point that Past Me always gave up. What’s the point in investing time in something that not only isn’t perfect, but some mornings you can’t even bear to look at? I’d abandon the work in progress and move on to the next one. And then the next, a pattern that only stopped when, in desperation, I sent the first 10,000 words of a novel to Vivienne Schuster at Curtis Brown.

While she didn’t sign me up on the spot, prompting a 12-way bidding war on the basis of those 10,000 words, she did tell me it had commercial potential. And that was enough. I gritted my teeth, ploughed on through the doubts and finished the book in three months.

So, I’d like to say I never experienced those crippling doubts again. But that would be a lie. Each book I start, there they are again, like unwelcome holiday guests who keep returning year after year, even though the hotelier has banned them. But now I’m on Book Seven, I’ve finally worked out some coping strategies:

Stop aiming for perfection, and just get the words down. You can always change them at second draft stage.

Write for yourself, as if no one else will ever read it.

Read David Foster Wallace’s brilliant essay ‘The Nature of the Fun’ where he compares the work in progress to a deformed infant, and concludes the only way to avoid being overcome with revulsion for the hideous creature we’ve created is to get back to seeing work as fun rather than self exposure.

Remember every top writer has doubts – and besides, anything that puts you in the same boat as Ian Rankin can’t be bad. Right?

Tamar Cohen’s fourth novel The Broken comes out in paperback today, published by Black Swan

Five Novels with Notable Neighbours

A perfect house doesn’t make a perfect home, as the Davenports found out all too late in The Sudden Departure of the Frasers. We started to imagine who from literature we would want next door and who we would deliberately move away from; here’s our selection of the top five books which feature the very best and very worst neighbours, from funny and romantic to dark and dangerous.

gatsby1. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Perhaps the most infamous neighbour of all time, the allusive Jay Gatsby is a stand-out character of literature. Whether it’s the parties, the intense romance, the mysterious lies or the fabulous film version with Leonardo, The Great Gatsby is perhaps the perfect ‘neighbour-novel’. The roaring twenties are brought to life with bright noise and colour and no matter how many times you read it, you cry when that car hits Daisy and Gatsby is shot. It’s one of those books that keeps you thinking for hours, days and even years after reading, about how much you can trust Nick’s narrative of Gatsby and whether Daisy was even that wonderful…

2. A Kind of Intimacy – Jenn Ashwortha kind of intimacy

A fantastically original debut novel, A Kind of Intimacy is a compelling story about an obese woman, Annie, who is new to the neighbourhood and keen to fit in with her apparently special ‘social skills’, particularly with the man next door. It’s a hilarious book which explores the inability to know others and ourselves, presenting us with a scarily relatable protagonist with dark and violent secrets. With a narrator as unreliable as Nick from Gatsby, you’ll struggle to know what’s real and what is madness and find yourself wrapped up in a quirky but brilliant read.

Emma3. Emma – Jane Austen

The JoJo Moyes of the 1800s, one of Austen’s books seems to make every list we write. Emma is one of her funniest and sweetest novels, whose characters still seem to feel relevant even today. The cheerful rapport between Emma and Knightley is the original hate-to-love romance story, which has been done over and over since but not ever quite like this. A neighbour who provides laughter, personal growth and a perfect husband, Knightley is Emma’s only critic, and ultimately, her only love; they provides us with a love story that seems timeless.

4. The Pact – Jodi Picoultthe pact

This is the story of two young teens from the Hart and Gold families, who have lived next door to each other for 18 years. Chris and Emily make a pact to kill themselves but when Chris survives, he is blamed for Emily’s murder. It’s a haunting book full of love and tragedy by one of the queens of commercial fiction, delving into the minds of troubled teens and heartbroken families, with a brutal legal battle which seems to line so many of her books.

rose petal5. The Rose Petal Beach – Dorothy Koomson

If you haven’t read any of her books, I urge you to immediately go out and buy one. The Rose Petal Beach is Dorothy’s eighth novel, it tells the tale of Tamia Challey whose life is completely upended when her husband, Scott, is arrested in front of her and their two children…for raping her best friend and neighbour Mirabelle. It’s a story full of deceit, disturbing surprises and some tear-jerking sadness. Once again you are lost in Dorothy’s characters; she’s a true artist at bringing them to life and tearing at your emotions with them.

Our Top Five Books in Museums (okay, and libraries)

After a stunning read of Seni Glaister’s Museum of Things Left Behind, we couldn’t wait to get together a list to reminisce about all of the other fantastic novels featuring museums. We’ve put together a culmination of our top choices below, from intense thrillers to deep romances and imaginary worlds. We’d love to hear your suggestions, if you can think of more!

da vinci1. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

A bestseller and hit film, The Da Vinci Code explores Christianity and the bloodline of Christ in the romantic setting of Paris and is an obvious choice for our list. Featuring the Louvre, with is iconic glass pyramid, Robert Langdon searches for the killer of the curator and finds himself deep in religious history, searching for the Holy Grail and the descendent of Jesus. A pacey read, taking you through twists and turns in a realm many authors fear to explore, it’s a unique and original mystery-detective which has earned its well-known status.

2. The Murder Room – P D Jamesmurder room

A much darker, thrilling addition to the museum collection is the twelfth of P D James’ Adam Dalgliesh series set in the Dupayne Museum on the edge of Hampstead Heath. One of Britain’s most esteemed detective authors, James creates a brilliant detective novel, presenting a dead body in the Muder Room – holding relics of murders that occurred in the first and second World Wars. Bringing past and present together with a very similar death, you’ll find yourself swept away with the mystery of both the room and the story itself.

david lodge3. The British Museum is Falling Down – David Lodge

One of our own which we felt just couldn’t be left off the list is David Lodge. One of his earliest novels, The British Museum is Falling Down is a charming, hilarious and honestly written novel about a young man called Adam Appleby who works in the Reading Room at the British Museum. Both a great insight into the stunning history of the museum, as well as a genuinely heart-warming and relatable story of a struggling young student coming to terms with his domesticated life and his own misadventures.

4. The Fifth Elephant– Terry Pratchett

fifth elephant

Much loved and missed, Terry Pratchett was a magician with words and worlds. His museum differs a little from the more serious types by being a Dwarf Bread Museum. This book is his 24th in the Discworld series, focusing around the stolen Scone of Stone from said museum. Pratchett’s worlds are some of the most creative and magical you’ll find in literature: unique characters, bustling cities and a world of fantasy so different from our own. He creates a perfect escape from every day life, taking you on the most sensational adventures.

possession5. Posession – AS Byatt

Winner of the 1990 Booker prize, this is set in a library – which we felt was close enough to a museum to justify a position on our list. On discovering handwritten drafts of from    a Victorian poet, Randolph Henry Ash, Roland Michell begins to investigate a long forgotten unknown romance between the poet and his contemporary, leading him to meet Maud Bailey, who learns to find her human side again through these past lovers. Indulge yourself in a story of heart-wrenching love and tragedy as Michell delves deeper into the past, uncovering secrets that may have been better left alone.

The Sudden Departure of the Frasers by Louise Candlish

Louise CandlishLouise Candlish, author

“The Sudden Departure of the Frasers sprang from my fascination – and dismay – with our modern obsession with home owning.

When I was invited to a dinner party recently I was surprised to be issued in advance with a list of banned subjects of conversation – number one of which was house prices. (Number two was schools.)

Well, I can report that it proved impossible for the guests to obey, for it seems we are no longer normal chemically-balanced citizens but addicts who have allowed ourselves to become irrationally fixated on bricks and mortar. And the higher prices rise, the stronger is the desire to chase the dream. We are all complicit in it.

With this novel I wanted to build a story around the hollow heart of the so-called forever home (somehow, that term manages to be both nauseating and sinister). Number 40 Lime Park Road is a beautiful house and yet it is for sale at under market value, even though it’s just been extravagantly renovated. (The bath tub is made of copper and imported from Mexico; as Christy’s mother remarks, ‘I haven’t seen those taps in B&Q.’) While not quite a castle in the air, the deal is certainly too good to be true and Christy and Joe neglect to ask themselves why until it’s far too late.

The difficulty, it emerges, is the man at number 42, Rob Whalen. He is not a neighbour to knock at the door with a basket of muffins any time soon. Behaviour that at first strikes Christy as churlish quickly becomes downright threatening. Clearly he has something to hide – and the other residents of Lime Park Road seem peculiarly determined to aid that concealment.

Of course, I’m not saying that every house purchase will end in tears at the hands of a neighbour of questionable repute, but what is true is that while house hunters spend a great deal of time targeting and plotting and counting (steps to the station, feet to the school gate) we spare remarkably little thought for the people whose heads will be placed on pillows little more than an arm span from our own. The Frasers’/Davenports’ master bedroom is separated by a wall of bricks from Rob’s living room. When Amber is making love with her husband Jeremy, Rob is sitting a couple of metres away. She describes the back-to-back fireplaces as conjoined hearts, an inappropriately romantic image, as it turns out.

So often it is too close for comfort. I have friends who bought a run-down semi-detached house in a desirable postcode and renovated it to resemble a boutique hotel, as the Frasers do, only to be driven out by noisy neighbours before they’d had the chance to sip their Nespressos on their newly decked roof terrace. As my friend explains, it is not just bad behaviour that distresses, it is your permanent state of anticipation of that bad behavior. It’s your horror at your mistake, your powerlessness to set things right.

Thanks (partly) to Rob Whalen, the Davenports are, by the end of the book, in exactly this position, poised to follow in the footsteps of the Frasers and vacate their dream house. Forever comes rather sooner than expected as they wonder if too much has been sacrificed for the privilege of inhabiting their high-status Lime Park home. (Of being able to say they inhabit it to envious family and friends.)

So why have we all succumbed to this gold rush? Why do we insist on prostrating ourselves at the feet of the property gods? Why must we own when we could rent or share or relocate or join a commune or travel the world in a camper van? People cite security, they say they want something tangible to mark their life’s achievements, a solid legacy for the kids. But if you are childfree or keen to raise competent and independent children then you shouldn’t need to plan your living arrangements with a thought to who will take the keys when you’re gone. Live life freely, that’s what I say; we’ll have plenty of time to browse Zoopla when we’re dead.

I’m eager to hear how the first readers will interpret The Sudden Departure of the Frasers because for me it was conceived with a clear aim: it is a cautionary tale. The flesh of intriguing, flawed characters like Amber Fraser and Rob Whalen grew on the bones of the central parable. I’m interested in what our sacrifices are when we make these life-shaping property decisions and whether they are worth it.

I’m interested in asking, if it were us who had to flee like the Frasers, where would we go? And who would miss us?”

The Sudden Departure of the Frasers will be published by Penguin on 21st May.  Follow Louise on Twitter at @Louise_Candlish and find out more about Louise and her writing by visiting

The Museum of Things Left Behind by Seni Glaister

I’m Twitter-shy by nature with a propensity to overthink and then over edit right up until the point by which I have completely missed the moment and the world will never know the delightful bon mot I so nearly dealt it.  But I do use Twitter to see what’s happening in the book world and to feel a bit closer to the minds of some of my author heroes and publishing favourites. 

So when a tweet notification pinged me and was immediately followed by a flurry of retweets and twitter static, I found myself all of a flutter.  The tweet included a picture of the proof of my soon to be published novel ‘The Museum of Things Left Behind” and its arrival on a doormat had prompted an enthusiastic tweet from a Curtis Brown Book Group member who had just received a copy to read.

The ramifications of a tweet are far reaching and can be life changing (and not always for the best, as Jon Ronson has just proven in his new book “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed”.)  But the joy I experienced as I witnessed the doormat moment being captured by an ‘actual’ reader was like no other moment in my writing journey so far.  You see, I’ve posted that tweet before, I’ve been the person with a new book by an unknown author in my hands many, many times – but to be on the receiving end for the very first time made this whole thing real for me, finally.

I’m from the book industry – I’ve been a bookseller since the age of 21, so my experience is probably very different from that, say, of a debut author feeling their way through the publishing process for the very first time.  Since early 2014 when I sent my manuscript out, I’ve had moments during which I have demonstrated unreasonable levels of excitement prompted by things that other first time authors might not notice.  How many other writers have danced around their kitchen in front of their mortified children singing “I have an ISBN”  in an annoying sing song melody for instance? And when the proof of my book turned up in the office, instead of running around stroking the cover, I ran around waving the AI (the advanced information that accompanies a book when it is being sold in to a bookseller) announcing, “I have my own AI!” to my bemused but mainly amused team.  Conversely, there have been other parts of the process that have not phased me at all – I was incredibly comfortable going in to meet my publisher for the first time because I knew the building, I knew some of the people, I knew exactly what to expect.

There are of course advantages and disadvantages to knowing your way around the industry.  But you shouldn’t think for a moment that knowing the people involved has make my path easier.  Far from it.  For a start, even though I  submitted the novel anonymously, I knew the people who would be reading it and judging it professionally.  I don’t think I have ever felt so physically afraid – I felt sick for the entire time it was being read.  It wasn’t just that I was going to be accepted or rejected, it was the fact that I would be accepted or rejected by somebody I knew and respected.  It was utterly terrifying.  Ironically, after an initial flurry of real excitement (acceptance not rejection) the process hiccupped because of my connections within the industry.  But then, quite gloriously, the process began in earnest with Fourth Estate who is (surely) the best publisher in the land!  (I say that as an author, clearly, not as a bookseller.  As a bookseller, the best publisher is the one I happen to be talking to at the time.

I’ve got a long way to go, of course, I’ve written my first novel but my experience of life as a writer is only just beginning.  Whilst I’ve always been in awe of the authors I most love, and respectful of the publishers I most admire, I am now entirely in the hands of the readers I don’t know.  Getting that early feedback – reviews tentatively posted online, or a tweet just acknowledging the receipt of a review copy, is hugely valuable and affirming.  It’s not validation I’m looking for at this point, it’s response.  And the way I respond, in turn, is telling me what sort of person I am going to be as an author.  How I’m going to react to praise, to criticism, to indifference – all of this is new for me as a human being.  I’ve been a spokesperson for a business for a really long time but this is the first time that any of the above (praise, criticism, indifference) has felt so visceral.

I have no idea what questions you’re going to ask me – I can’t even begin to imagine.  But, in turn, you can not begin to imagine how much I am looking forward to answering them.  At this point in time I have no idea how I am going to react to any of this – I hope to be well behaved, professional, engaged, pragmatic, I hope to reply to Tweets and to not take the tough stuff to heart, I hope I’ll be the author you want me to be… but I can’t guarantee any of that.

The Museum of Things Left Behind will be published on May 21st by 4th Estate. It’s one of our April Books of the Month. 

Our April Books of the Month

IMG_4595 IMG_4597Welcome to Spring and welcome to April’s book choices! To match the (hopefully) light weather, we have a heart-warming, picturesque fable…but in case the clouds are still rolling in, we have a darker, more mysterious thriller – but both should raise some questions and get you thinking.

Look out for more exclusive blogs about both books over the coming weeks – not only from us but the authors, editors and agents.

The Sudden Departure of the Frasers by Louise Candlish

originalsMy name is Amber Fraser. I’ve just moved in at number 40 Lime Park Road. You’ll come to think of me as a loving wife, a thoughtful neighbour and a trusted friend.

This is a lie.

When Christy and Joe Davenport are handed the keys to Number 40 on picture-perfect Lime Park Road, Christy knows it should be a dream come true. Strange, then, that the house was on the market for such a low price. That the previous owners, the Frasers, renovated the entire property and yet moved out within a year. That none of the neighbours will talk to Christy.

As curiosity gives way to obsession, Christy finds herself drawn deeper into the mystery of the house’s previous occupants – and the dark and shocking secret that tore the street apart…

Follow Louise on Twitter @louise_candlish and check out her website, The Sudden Departure of the Frasers will be published in the UK by Penguin on 21st May 2015 and in the US by Michael Joseph on 1st September 2015.

The Museum of Things Left Behind by Seni Glaister

originalVallerosa is a country somewhere in Europe, a land of great plenty and beauty tied up in bureaucratic knots by its neurotic and lonely President.

When a young English girl on her gap year is mistaken for a member of the British royal family, she is given access to every corner of Vallerosan society, and her interventions and insights begin to heal the dysfunctional country.

Reminiscent of the fantastical fables of Italo Calvino and Jonas Jonasson – or Wes Anderson’s “Grand Budapest Hotel” – this is a tour de force of endless invention; a hilarious, enchanting and surprisingly relevant tale which will make you see the world as if freshly minted.

Find out more about Seni and her novel by following her on Twitter @BookPeopleSeni. The Museum of Things Left Behind will be published in the UK by Fourth Estate on 21st May 2015.