Maggie O’Farrell is probably my most favourite living author. I am actually so in awe of her that I sort of hate her, which isn’t very nice, because from what I’ve seen she’s actually a lovely person.
I first heard Maggie speak at a Good Housekeeping ‘Book Day’ event, years ago when I was working on handbag.com, and the ace web-editor for GH, knowing I was writing a novel, let me gatecrash. It was held at the Mermaid Theatre and Maggie was part of a panel of authors taking part in a discussion. I can’t remember what the topic of the discussion was because it was in about 2007, but I remember coming away impressed by Maggie in particular, and fired up to write more, and better.
And then I started to read Maggie’s novels, and was just blown away, repeatedly. My favourite is After You’d Gone, but I was also totally charmed by The Hand That First Held Mine. They’re what I call ‘proper’ books – stories that you completely lose yourself in, that impress with both their beautiful writing as well as their twisty plots and perceptively crafted characters. They basically win on every level. Like I said, it’s tempting to hate her.
I’ve also heard Maggie speak at the Shoreditch House Literary Salon – which I used to go to all the time but which has unfortunately (but rightly) become so popular that the last time I went I couldn’t get in (would like to point out here that I was one of the ORIGINAL MEMBERS. Ahem.)
So I was very excited when I stumbled across the opportunity to hear her again (although I’m aware I’m beginning to sound a bit like a stalker), at an event at Waterstones Piccadilly to launch her new novel, Instructions For a Heatwave.
It was a lovely, civilised evening, the likes of which I should have more often. To start with, Maggie read an excerpt from the book, then she was interviewed by Observer journalist Elizabeth Day. Then there were questions from the audience and a signing. And Bucks Fizz.
Sadly, I made a total pratt of myself getting my book signed – as Maggie was signing it, I was so nervous that I blurted out I was unlikely to actually read the hardback itself, as I was going to buy it on Kindle anyway. Massive cringe.
She was very gracious about my ridiculous outburst, thankfully. She was completely charming throughout the evening, actually, extolling feminism in a calm but spirited and firm manner, and handling a rather random and undeserved criticism from one of the audience with ease. So I still love/hate her.
I haven’t started the book yet so can’t include a review with this post unfortunately (although it’d likely just be a massive gushfest anyway). It feels like a lovely treat that’s awaiting me. I almost want to book a week on a desert island somewhere so that I can savour it completely…