These Fragile Things
As Streatham, South London, still reels from the riots in neighbouring Brixton, Graham Jones, an ordinary father, grows fearful for his teenage daughter Judy who faces a world where the pace of change appears to be accelerating. But even he cannot predict what will happen next. A series of events is about to be unleashed over which he will have no control, and the lives of his family will change forever. When Judy claims to be seeing visions he will call it a miracle, and, to his wife’s horror, the hungry press will label their daughter ‘The Miracle Girl.’ Elaine, present when she came close to losing her daughter a first time – knowing it was the paramedics and surgeons who saved her – will demand a medical explanation. But Judy, refusing to become caught in this emotional tug-of-war, is adamant. She must tread her own path, wherever it takes her. Delusion, deception, diabolic…or is it just possible that Judy’s apparitions are authentic? Only you can decide.
A brilliantly imaginative and quirkily fresh take on the world. Brimful of originality and creativity.’ The Literary Consultancy
‘An elegant and understated prose style with a very satisfying rhythm. This is really very good writing indeed.’ Debi Alper
‘Leaves one panting to read more.’ Jill Foulston
Book Club Questions
Even before Judy’s accident, the book considers the pressures on the nuclear family.
- How does Graham’s image of himself as a father, which bore a striking resemblance to his own father as a middle-aged man, affect his approach to fatherhood?
- How far do you agree with the statement that two against one is the natural equation?
- What impact does Judy’s fear of imperfection as an only child have on her behaviour?
- How did Judy’s accident alter the dynamics of the Jones family?
- Which character do you think best fits the description of the rope in an unending tug of war?
- To what extent do you agree with Elaine’s statement to Judy, ‘We’re all in it together.’
In this book, Jane re-visits the theme of missing persons and the sense that the hole they leave behind can be greater than the space they took up in life. In this case, the missing person was an unborn child. How, if anything, do you think Elaine’s miscarriage affected her approach to motherhood?
To what extent do you think Graham’s decision to believe was a choice?
What advantage did Elaine feel being present at the scene of Judy’s accident, if only in its aftermath, give her over Graham?
What was the impact of Judy’s request to keep her scars hidden from her father?
To Elaine, her daughter’s scars came to represent the price of having her back in one piece. What did they come to represent to Judy?
Judy isn’t the only member of the family to experience visions. What forms do Elaine’s visions take?
In what ways does Elaine come to feel trapped?
Do you feel that Father Patrick’s concern that he might be culpable for encouraging Judy when she was clearly vulnerable might be valid?
To what extent does Graham’s faith come to feel like a burden?
How important is Miranda’s role in the novel?
Which character – including the supporting cast – did you feel the most sympathetic towards?
Which things did it transpire were the most fragile of all?
I Stoppped Time
“Can you think of a really good memory? Perhaps you can see it when you close your eyes. Now, imagine you could take it out and look at it whenever you wanted to!” Turn of the century Brighton. A spark is ignited when wide-eyed Lottie Pye enters Mr Parker’s photographic studio and discovers the new medium that will shape her life, becoming a passion.
2009: Disgraced politician Sir James Hastings has resigned himself to living out his retirement in a secluded Surrey village. He doesn’t react when he learns that the mother who abandoned him as a baby has died at the age of 108: he presumed she had died many years ago. Brought up by his father, a charismatic war-hero turned racing driver, young James, torn between self-blame and longing, eventually dismissed her as the ‘villain’ of his childhood. But, when he inherits her life’s work – a photography collection spanning over six decades – he is forced to confront his past. Assisted by student Jenny Jones, who has recently lost her own mother to cancer, Sir James is persuaded to look at the photographs as if he is seeing through his mother’s eyes. And there he discovers an extraordinary tale of courage and sacrifice.
“Three. I have three stories,” Lottie tells her solicitor while putting her affairs in order. “But it was Oscar Wilde who said that a story is almost certainly a lie.”
‘A classy and engaging novel’ – Hilary Johnson
Questions for book clubs
What do you think the central themes of this book are?
Why do you think the author chose to make the main character 108 years old?
Did you enjoy the time-shift aspect of the writing? What do you think the structure brought to your experience of the novel?
Attitudes to child-care have changed dramatically since the beginning of the twentieth century. What advantages/disadvantages did Lottie’s comparative freedom give her over children today?
Kitty raises concerns that Lottie might take after the mother she never knew. How far was this fear borne out? In what ways, if any, does Lottie repeat her mother’s mistakes?
‘A story is almost certainly a lie.’ In what ways does Lottie compensate for her fear of the lies hiding behind words?
Was Kitty wrong to tell Lottie a story about her origins or was she, as Alfie suggested, trying to protect her?
Kingdom justifies lying to his son by saying, ‘People deserve the lies they’re told.’ Do you agree/disagree?
Sir James felt that his loyalty should rest with the father who broke with the conventions of the day to bring him up alone. How sympathetic are you to this viewpoint?
Was being stubborn Kingdom’s only failing as a father?
‘Attitudes were very different.’ What do you think the greatest shift/s in attitude have been over the past 100 years?
How effective do you think the author’s technique of using photography was to (a) reveal the past (b) use as a motif for personality?
Besides photography, what other things did Mr Parker teach Lottie?
Do you agree that there is a difference between being naked and being nude?
‘The hole someone leaves behind is greater than the space they occupy in life.’ Discuss.
How far do you agree with Lottie’s claim that it is easier to leave than to be left behind? If she could apply this to Alfie and herself, is there in any way in which her decision to leave her husband and son could be justified?
Lottie’s story shifts between Brighton and London. In what ways does her environment affect her?
What do you think Mrs Miller’s motivations were in offering a home to someone she didn’t know?
Sir James draws his own conclusions, but how did you feel about Lottie’s decision to be buried next to Phoebe Hessel?
Wo Da Gluck Wohnt – German Translation of Half-truths and White Lies
Working with Munich Publishers, Diane Verlag, has brought Jane’s first novel to a wider audience. ”I love the artwork, which reflects the themes of the book. Since the title Half-truths and White Lies didn’t translate well, they have re-named it, Wo Da Gluck Wohnt, Where Happiness Lives.”
Jane freut sich mit dem Münchner Verleger, Diana Verlag, dessen Übersetzung wird ihre Arbeit einem breiteren Publikum näher zu bringen arbeiten. “Ich liebe das Kunstwerk sie an Bord Bilder und Themen erstellt haben unter aus dem Roman. Da Halbwahrheiten und White Lies nicht gut übersetzen, sie einen anderen Titel, Wo Da Gluck Wohnt.”
A beautifully written story of secrets, lies, grief and, ultimately, redemption, charmingly handled by this very promising new writer – Joanne Harris, Author of Chocolat
This is a thought-provoking and beautifully crafted novel that will keep you entralled until the very last page - The People’s Friend
Half-truths and White Lies
When Tom Fellows proclaims that a venn diagram is a far better way of illustrating modern family ties than a traditional tree, his young daughter Andrea has no idea that he is referring to their own situation. It is only when she loses both parents in a tragic car accident that she takes an interest in her own genealogy and begins to realize that her perfect upbringing was not all it seemed…Half-Truths and White Lies is a beautifully crafted, thought-provoking novel that questions the influence of the people who are missing from our lives. It examines the thin line between love and friendship, looking at our complex emotional needs. It also explores how one woman’s life is dictated by her desire for children, whilst another’s is shaped by her decision not to have them.
The Daily Mail First Novel Award
• Launched March 2007 with the aim of finding new and exciting writing talent.
• Judged by a panel consisting of: Joanne Harris, author of CHOCOLAT, Francesca Liversidge, Senior Publishing Director, Transworld Publishers, Journalist Fanny Blake and the then Literary Editor of the Daily Mail Jane Mays.
• The winner HALF-TRUTHS & WHITE LIES was published in April 2009 by Black Swan.
So, Jane, what is it really about?
“Firstly, it’s about the struggle of a young woman to find her own identity after she loses her parents in a horrific motor accident. It’s also a story of two sisters who were treated very differently by their parents, one labelled as beautiful and one labelled as clever, and the impact those labels had on them. It’s a story about that very confusing word, ’love,’ and the particular situation that happens when we cross the line between friendship and something more, and all of the messy repercussions that follow. It’s about the impulsive choices and decisions we make and how the impact of those decisions resonate through time. It’s about the secrets between a group of family and friends, and the lengths that they will go to to keep them hidden. It’s the story of what one man will go to undo the damage he’s done. And it’s about forgiveness, because it’s amazing what friendship is capable to surviving. But of course, there’s no one character who knows the whole truth at the beginning. And our starting point is this very volatile situation in the aftermath of the accident when the characters are at their most vulnerable. Anything could give.”
Book Club Questions
What do you think the central themes of this book are?
Did you like the author’s decision to have three first-person narrators? What effect do you feel the book’s structure had on your enjoyment of it?
Do you agree that routines within families make us feel safe?
Tom comments, ‘It’s bizarre how two people who were brought up together can be so different.’ Do you think that Mrs Albury’s labelling of her daughters exacerbated their differences?
Faye complains that Peter Churcher edited her out of their story. How do you feel about her interpretation of events?
Much of the narrative explores the shifting dynamics in a triangular relationship. Peter and Laura’s relationship altered after Tom came on the scene. What were the less expected consequences?
Both Tom and Laura faced the decision of giving up their passion and accepting option number two. What happened as a result of their failures to act?
According to Peter, the truth is that we reinvent ourselves with the stories we tell and re-tell. How far was this true in his case?
Peter also says that there is not just a single version of events called the truth. Do you agree/disagree?
To what extent did you sympathise with Faye. Was she unfeeling or was she a victim?
Many people kept secrets in an attempt to protect others. Which of these were the most damaging in the longer term?
Do you agree with Kevin that the most important person in a child’s life is who tucks them in at night?