Join Allison Pearson to talk about I THINK I LOVE YOU - our April Book of the Month - on Tuesday 19 April, 8-9pm

(67 Posts)

Our April Book of the Month will have you swooning, mooning and kissing your pillow for practice. I THINK I LOVE YOU by Allison Pearson (author of the seminal bestseller I DON'T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT) is a homage to the teenage crush, and the maelstrom of adolescent emotion that goes with it. Witty, observant and moving, this beautifully nostalgic novel also explores female friendship and the mother/daughter relationship. Whether you dreamt of being Mrs Cassidy, Mrs Le Bon or Mrs Adam Ant, it's a book that'll keep you smiling all day.

You can find out more about the book here.

We are delighted that Allison will be joining us on Tuesday 19 April, 8-9 pm, for the bookclub discussion - look forward to seeing you all there...

elkiedee Thu 21-Apr-11 12:56:07

Some very interesting answers there, wish I'd posted a question beforehand, as I can't do 8 pm chats - I'm usually settling toddler to sleep on our bed (he climbs out of the cot if put in there awake) or running round putting a wash on and snatch a few minutes reading/internet before doing so at that time (dp kindly does bath and storytime), I admit I've never wanted to read I Don't Know How She Does It in the past but I think I might have to read it now. I did quite enjoy I Think I Love You

Allison, thank you so much for all your excellent answers - I've been writing some of your lines down so that I can repeat them to myself when banging my head against the fridge door.

I do hope you do write another book - meanwhile, I'll make sure I see the film. I'm a Mad Men addict so will find it deeply strange if movie Allison isn't wearing pointy-boobed dress and carrying a folder...

Many thanks again, it's been wonderful to talk to you.

AllisonPearson Tue 19-Apr-11 21:21:07

Adair, I agree about needing a culture in which it's OK to celebrate amazing things about your child. I really love looking at other people's baby photos so I may be untypical in this regard!
Also, I don't think that it's boasting. Even hearing one of you mention your baby lying on you takes me back to that miraculous heft of them, tucked onto your chest. I don't kniw why we have to be cynical when these things arouse our most tender feelings.
My daughter is hugely musical - perfect pitch, listens to a tune on the radio, walks over to the piano and plays it. That gift has NOTHING to do with me. I can't claim any credit for it. am honoured merely to be the humble womb in which it came to be.. Mind you. I do wish she'd consider reading a book like her mother!
btw, it's also OK to share more ambivalent feelings. Lately, Daughter has had me in tears a few times by saying such nasty things. I prefer to see her as being demonically possessed. Not such a great idea to have me on the menopause while she's in puberty... like a pair of poltergeists!

AllisonPearson Tue 19-Apr-11 21:11:25

Oh, Tilly,
I should say the disapproving German mother in the book is definitely not my mum. Much more my authoritarian and impossible to please dad. What's weird when you write is that particular feelings you've had get into the novel but they don't always attach themselves to the relevant character they belonged to in real life.
I suppose the mother in IDKHSDI is more like my mum.
Did I mention that the screenwriter has created a friend for Kate in the movie called ALLISON who is being played by Christina "Mad Men" Hendricks. I am humbled to be thus immortalised! Movie is out in US on 16 September.I've heard the first clips are really good and funny. Fingers crossed

AllisonPearson Tue 19-Apr-11 21:07:36

I never kissed my David Cassidy posters, but I did kiss him on the black and white TV. It made a kind of fuzzy/buzzy sensation...
Not sure who asked, but the highlight of the whole writing career.. Well, I was in New York promoting I Don't Know How and I was on the Today show with Katie Couric, herself a working mum and almost hysterically glad to discuss the book. After I'd done the show, I walked down Madison Avenue and went into an internet cafe where I checked Amazon. The book was Number One. I was so excited I pointed it out to my neighbour who, being American, went wild and told the whole cafe. The proprietor bought everyone coffee and bagels and toasted my success. I remember telling myself, Take a picture of this moment for your memory for it shall not come again.
To be honest, what gives me the biggest kick is readers coming up and sharing their stories. I've had so many lovely and hilarious conversations about I Think I Love You. People say, "It's like you had a camera inside my head" and THAT is my drug of choice. The proof that trying to render experience as faithfully as I can has worked. Some of Evie's friends have read the book and it's really great to see teenage girls recognising all the bitching and cruelty they put themselves through. The scars last a lifetikme. I'd love the book to be taught in schools to open up discussion about the way girls bitch to bond.. Boys just don't care that much..

Adair Tue 19-Apr-11 21:06:09

Right, I am off to finish ITILY as I really got into it this morning, up to concert bit and want to find out what happens next (not a suck-up, honest blush)

PS re-read your answer to my question, I look at this nearly-three-month baby and long for another but do look forward to the teenage years of SLEEP. THANK YOU! grin

AllisonPearson Tue 19-Apr-11 20:59:41

OK, a few answers. I gave up teaching because I was too young to handle the kids. First question on first day: "What's yer favourite flavour condom, Miss?"
I should have said Chicken Tikka Masala. Alas, I didn't know they came in flavours.. Now I have actually had kids myself I'd be able to handle it better.
I spent my twenties in a series of different jobs - sold advertising space, worked in mental hospital (excellent preparation for having a toddler), PR. Didn't get into journalism till my late twenties and didn't see a word of mine in print till I was 32. That first picture caption - all 52 carefully crafted words of it - was such a thrill.
WHat will my next book be about? At the moment, I have NO PLANS to ever write another novel. I find the whole process shattering. And the kids hate it. It's like I'm upstairs creating a rival sibling, which in a way I am. I am very slow and trying to bring together themes, characters, imagery is like docking a spaceship!
One plan I have is, with my wonderful American friend, Sharon, to produce a factual book - I Do Know How She Does It - which shares some of the insane, hilarious and heartbreaking stories that readers have sent in or come up to me with. I do feel that there is a kind of communal wisdom and Sharon and I email back and forth across the Atlantic the whole time, so I thought that just a conversation between two friends with great jokes and cartoons might be something people might like?
In my craziest moments, Ive thought about writing sequel to I Don't Know How .. because poor Kate has got teenagers by now and I'd like to see how she's doing.. But I need a volunteer to write the bloody thing!!

I'm interested in what you say about mothers and daughters (I've got 3 boys but was one of 3 sisters growing up). My mum always told us we were beautiful, but it was obvious that good exam results were what really made her happy.

Was your relationship with your mum a bit more like Petra's?

MrsKwazii Tue 19-Apr-11 20:57:27

Obviously that should have been, did you use to kiss your DC posters? blush

I used to love defacing my sisters' George Michael pin-ups from Smash Hits grin

Adair Tue 19-Apr-11 20:56:35

Yes, i agree. Just sworn at Special K ad 'women don't just wake up looking fabulous' - gah.

But it happens a lot on here and is, dare i say it - a British fear - celebrating your achievement is seen as doing other's down and boasting (my child said four words today/My child drew a gorgeous unicorn/My child shared her biscuit without asking). I would like to have a culture where we are proud and amazed about all the different things children do and say and be and think.

MrsKwazii Tue 19-Apr-11 20:56:02

Thanks for answering my question Alison. The eyeshadow and the way it was used between the three girls to say so much really stood out for me, so not suprised it is based on your own experience.

If you have the time, another sneaky one, did you used to kiss your DC posters? grin

I think that the masses of parenting books from people who have never had children, and celebrities who have children plus an entourage, make it easy to think you are doing everything wrong and in fact there is a secret magic formula that you will find out if you read 'The Baby Charmer' or 'Gurning celebrity famous only for reality show's guide to bringing up your children with only a million pounds and 2 nannies'. IDKHSDI is a nice antidote to that, and also to the yummy mummy chick lit which has become popular.

Sorry, I'm sure you want to talk about your new book, I haven't read it, am more of a 90's teen brat myself!

AllisonPearson Tue 19-Apr-11 20:48:34

Rattie77 I'm so glad you liked it. It was really interesting trying to recreate that teen world of believing every word we read in the magazines. Egg white on the face, lemon on the hair for highlights, Anne French Deep Cleansing Milk (the sophistication!)
Actually, when I went back to the mags of the era I was stunned by how they seemed almost designed to make girls feel as neurotic as possible. Identify Your Weak Points. Are You A Wallflower? It made me think how there's this whole culture of making you scared you look terrible when, in fact, you'll never look better. Why didn't we walk round with a banner saying, I Have a 24-inch waist?
And why do women do that to themselves. I actually make myself tell my daughter she looks lovely. Not something my mother felt she could do for me.. I think today women feel more able to be more praising mothers and more able to take pleasure in their girls' youth and beauty. Anyone agree?

The bit I was questioning was the 'no rowing back' from these rights. It scares me some of the anti women legislation being proposed, both here and abroad (some really fecked up bills being proposed in the US re: abortion). It scares me the some of the people we have in power seem like they have been handed the world to them on a plate, never had to fight for anything, which is why they are so far removed from the POV of women.

Apologies for derailing the talk with political crap!

Adair Tue 19-Apr-11 20:46:20

Agree re sleep - i take it where i can. Ds is dc3 and will be asleep on me while i doze tonight... reassuring to see working mum promote non-GF too (shamelessly stereotyping). Was hoping for another magic trick though grin

I think a lot of women (men?) have this enormous list in head thing even without kids. I know I did.

Question: what has been your most 'pinch-yourself' moment about actually becoming a famous novelist? Apart from meeting sjp of course...

AllisonPearson Tue 19-Apr-11 20:42:40

Dear Bumperlicioso,
Yes I do think that New Labour changed the climate over maternity rights and that the main parties are signed up to them. The deal now is far superior to when I had my kids. There is always going to be an issue in smaller businesses if several women are off at the same time.I do a lot of campaigning about this within firms and it's amazing what can be achieved if a precedent is set.
One lawyer I met adopted a child and the condition of adoption was she could not work full time, so her firm made her their first part-time partner. It worked really well and now others have done the same - even to look after elderly relatives as well as kids.

AllisonPearson Tue 19-Apr-11 20:34:36

Thanks Olivia. I don't play cello, but I sat at the feet of the great young cellist Natalie Clein, who looks suspiciously like my heroine, to learn all about that beautiful instrument. Sometimes, you think you've made someone up and then - there they are in the real world.
Tips? Well, I don't remember everything. Kate's neverending To Do list is partly a parody, but all too true. When I was going away on work once, I handed my OH a list of all the things to do in my absence. he said plaintively: "But it looks like a plan for invading a small country."
Quite right. All mothers run the small country called home. It's one hell of a job, particularly when the First Law of Motherhood is the note about School Viking Day will only ever be found in the PE bag at 9.47pm on Sunday night. And don't get me started on costumes for World Book Day, which I swear comes around every 8 weeks.
I'm afraid, to some extent, you have to go with the flow and the chaos. If you have a five-month-old baby, just getting dressed and feeding everyone is brilliant. Don't hold yourself to your pre-baby standards. Listen to your body - and to your heart. They will tell you when the balance has gone too much one way or the other. And guilt is to motherhood what rain is to Swansea. It's just the prevailing climate so buy a bloody good umbrella and get used to it.
FINALLY, you are the only mum your kids have. They have no point of comparison, ergo you're wonderful. Their love for you is inextinguishable and will survive any kind of crap childcare - although mine now tease me about some of our worst experiences! Be honest with them. Tell them, Mummy's been tired and cross and I'm sorry. Mine know that I work to pay for certain things which we otherwise couldn't have - like a house!

'I think the Blair government did a lot to entrench better maternity rights, which there is no rowing back from.'

Do you really think that is true? When the Conservatives are considering exempting small business from certain employee laws including Maternity Leave? And cuts are being made to child-centric benefits?

AllisonPearson Tue 19-Apr-11 20:24:39

Hi to all asking Can Women Have It All? The perennial problem. Not too many men being asked that question, I notice. GLoria Steinem said no man has ever been asked how he is going to combine a career with fatherhood..
From the thousands and thousands of glorious stories and confidences that IDKHSDI produced, I have deduced a little wisdom. There is no one answer that fits all. Staying home with a small baby terrifies some women, leaving home with a small baby in it distresses others. Know Thyself. Once you know what feels right try to act on it. No point being a feminist martyr if you're in a job incompatible with parenting. The sacrifice I made was to leave the office and colleagues that I loved, work from home, go up two dress sizes and live in Sweaty Betty. Oh, the glamour!
Personally, I think a four-day week, if you do go back, is a minimum requirement for sanity if you can swing it. You can get your boring tasks done on the Friday, maybe take darling child to a music or swimming class, so you have a toe in the mummy world. Then the weekend is pretty free just to hang out and BE. Took me a long time to learn that the kids don't need to DO much. Just being around you, curling up on the sofa and watching Beauty and the Beast (the BEST Disney film, certainly in feminist terms)
Also, do not forget the male person with whom you made the babies in the first place. We ended up having a babysitter Sunday nights and heading out from the weekend detritus to a movie. It was lovely, even if I fell asleep through most of the films of the 1990s.

TuttiFrutti Tue 19-Apr-11 20:23:06

What are you working on next? Your books so far seem quite different from each other - will the next one be still more different?

AllisonPearson Tue 19-Apr-11 20:16:02

Hello Greenshadow,

I will forgive you for being a Donny fan.. I always wanted the book to be in two parts. I wanted the woman in her 30s to be looking back at her teenage self, when she has a teenager of her own. That teen infatuation is so strong and potent from generation to generation. The great dress rehearsal for love - it's primitive and quite scary, the oestrogen revving up in the young female. I wanted older Petra to reflect on the illusions about love her younger self had and how - maybe - they had affected her older self's view of relationships.
I also wanted to try and write a perfect romantic comedy, with a hook that took a woman back in time to be almost able to stand over her younger self. I'm just writing the stage musical of the book and I have the older and younger Petra actually singing to each other. I find that idea very moving.. Can it be that it was all so simple then/ Or has time rewritten every line. In the immortal words of Gladys Knight and the Pips.. The Way We Were..

Did the teacher training give you particular insights into raising children, do you think? And what made you swap teaching for journalism/writing?

AllisonPearson Tue 19-Apr-11 20:10:57

Thank you TillyBookClub for those kind words. I didn't have many books in my house as a child. In fact, I didn't read all the middle-class classics until I did teacher training. I loved a scary book called Marianne Dreams, about a girl who is ill in bed for a long time and starts to live in a frightening drawing. I still remember the goosebumps it gave me.
Advice on writing is the only way to improve is to sit on your backside and start typing. Arse on chair, there's no substitute for that. And reading. Raed and read the writers you like, steep yourself in their words like a teabag. Gradually, you pick up the rhythms and the structure. I still feel like I'm learning. In I Think I Love You, I gave Bill a daughter, but I took her out because I couldn't handle any extra complexity. I'm some way off Anna Karenina at this point, but I think I'm improving..

Greenshadow Tue 19-Apr-11 20:09:50

Hello Allison,

I was one of those lucky enough to receive a free copy, courtesy of your publishers.
I was born in 1961, so would be the same age as Petra, but was more of a Donny fan than a David one. (My sister had his posters on our shared bedroom wall though, so will pass the book on to her next).

At first I was disappointed when the story went from the 1970s to the 90s as I wanted more links back to my teenage self, but soon forgot that and felt that it was right that it told her story as an adult (albeit with a rather predictable outcome).
Was it always going to be a story in two halves or was the original intention just to write about a 13 year olds life?

AllisonPearson Tue 19-Apr-11 20:03:05

OK, Adair, stroking bridge of baby's nose is my best sleep tip. Don't get into any fussy Baby Must Sleep in Cot, Pointing Towards Mecca, Gina Ford crap. Baby must sleep wherever you are. In buggy, in car. I remember driving around for hours with mine. In fact, some enterprising person should set up a baby sleep-chauffeur service?
When they're tiny, wrap them tight and wedge into Moses basket between rolled-up towels like a hotdog. God, this makes me so nostalgic. Mine is now so teenage she sleeps till 2pm at weekends and I long for her to WAKE UP. Just know that that sleep deprivation phase won't last for long. You get your memory back by the time you're 48, just in time for the menopause to take it away...

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