Jane came to talk to West Sussex Writers in June about characterisation, using the main protagonists in her two published novels The Lie of You and After the Storm. It was an enjoyable talk by a fluent, articulate speaker, but I was particularly intrigued by the sound of her new book and delighted when Jane kindly invited me along to the book launch.
Liz Lyon is Head of Features at StoryWorld TV. It’s exhilarating and sometimes glamorous work, but as a single mother with a demanding career, her life is a constant balancing act. Then simmering tensions erupt at the station, trapping Liz in a web of rivalry, manipulation and deceit. If she trusts the wrong person, she could lose her job. But with everything she thought she knew crumbling around her, can she even trust herself?
Jane used to work for the likes of Anne Diamond at Breakfast TV – and she clearly is drawing on her own experiences as StoryWorld deadlines come and go and Liz is frantically trying to hold it all together. The narrative is in first person present tense which gives the book immediacy as Liz pings off the page with Jane’s fluid, readable style. I had intended to read this book over three or four days, but once I opened up the book and got engrossed, it proved very hard to put down again.
The characters are well depicted and even the nastiest character in the book – the bullying, sexist Julius Jones – has a major redeeming feature, which I appreciated. I do get very sick of pantomime-villain antagonists. What is also enjoyable, is that this book focuses on Liz’s work life, instead of her domestic and romantic life. While those elements are addressed and discussed, Liz’s focus is on her job as it consumes most of her waking life and thinking time.
However, the joy of this book isn’t just the protagonist – it is the ensemble who work at StoryWorld, who are mostly larger than life with flaws and talents to match. It is Liz who has the unenviable job of keeping them running as a team, while constantly working to punishing deadlines. As Lythell braids the different stories about the likes of Fizzy the main presenter, Betty the agony aunt, Ledley the chef and Harriet, the latest intern who has the job because her prominent father pulled strings, I found myself pulled into the febrile world of big egos, diminishing budgets and viewing figures – and absolutely loving it.
I haven’t read anything else quite like it, but I’ll definitely be on the lookout for the sequel and if you’re looking for an entertaining, holiday read this summer that will keep you captivated from the start to the finish, then consider this one. It’s great fun.