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May Book of the month: The Awkward Age by Francesca Segal - Post a question and join us Tuesday 9pm

(77 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 01-May-18 16:57:36

Our May book of the month is Costa Award winning author Francesca Segal's much-awaited second novel, The Awkward Age.

Her first novel "The Innocents' was described as 'subtle, witty and acutely observed' and her latest displays similar traits. In this novel, two parents fall in love in later life and, hoping to take their relationship to the next level, unite their families under one roof. Segal observes the lives of the two families as they grapple with the complexities of blended family life and modern day demands – primarily, the constant pursuit of happiness for our children.

Read our book club bloggers' reviews and read or listen to an extract. ]] and join us in reading in May before our author webchat on Tuesday 5th June.

NapQueen Mon 07-May-18 21:16:31

Im about two thirds of the way through the book. It's the peripheral characters which are making it for me. The storyline between the main four is (imo) extremely predictable. The actions taken by the teens and the outcomes I predicted the moment I read the blurb on the back. I had hoped I was wrong, and still hope that there will be something that makes it a worthwhile read in the final third.

Its a shame, really, as the almost formulaic events happening in the main characters lives overshaddow the writing and storylines of the others within it.

I will finish the book, but hope to be surprised by the final third.

bellabelly Sat 12-May-18 17:46:28

Am so pleased that I haven't missed the webchat for this - I thought it was last week!

I'm on Part 3 at the moment and really enjoying it! I think the writing is superb and, although the main plot is rather predictable, I've been really surprised a couple of times. I won't say any more as I don't want to spoil it for other readers.

Anyway, looking forward to the webchat. smile

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 29-May-18 12:40:42

Hi Bookclubbers - please note that the date for the webchat with Francesca Segal is TUESDAY 5th JUNE and not Weds 6th. Please put the date in your diary to join us at 9pm for author webchat. If you haven't yet read, there's still a week to buy and read May book of the month: The Awkward Age or download to your e-reader.

user1479032759 Mon 04-Jun-18 11:09:51

I finished reading The Awkward Age about.... 6 weeks ago I think? At first I wasn't sure I really enjoyed it - I like it enough to keep reading and I wanted to find out how things ended. I think my trouble was I connected more with the characters on the edge of the story - the grandparents specifically. Not sure what that says about me as i'm 27 but anyway.

On reflection I think some of the aspects that frustrated me about the characters and the tension in the home was deliberate by the author. I certainly felt like giving them a good shake more than once!!

Heather2gether Mon 04-Jun-18 11:27:16

I really enjoyed the book and am looking forward to the webchat. One thing I wondered when reading the book was - what is the awkward age? At first I presumed it was the teenage years but as it went on I realised that it could have been any of the generations. I think you're right user14....., the tensions were a deliberate ploy by the author. All the characters were flawed and this certainly made it frustrating to read at times but also so true of real life. I love a book that leaves you pondering and this certainly did. I'm looking forward to the webchat tomorrow night.

FernieB Mon 04-Jun-18 17:34:42

Agree with above posters about wanting to give the characters a good shake! This mainly applied to Julia and Gwen. Both were a little self absorbed and 'mooning' at times. I didn't particularly warm to any of the females who all seemed to be trying to control and/or manipulate the men in their lives. Loved Phillip and was pleased for him towards the end, escaping Iris.

Enjoyed the book. It's well written and moves at a good pace. I think the ending was inevitable given that they didn't seem to like each other's families from the start.

FernieB Mon 04-Jun-18 17:36:44

I'd like to ask Francesca what was the inspiration for the book? Why choose this particular circumstance as a subject?

IslandLivingEmma Mon 04-Jun-18 20:58:44

Hi,

I really enjoyed reading the novel and for weeks afterwards I was still thinking about it. I wanted to ask you about Julia. In a lot of ways she seems to be someone who is very naive. Was that deliberate? I was quite torn by her. In some ways I thought she was being selfish putting her needs above her daughters and moving James and Nathan in. In other ways I felt like she had overindulged Gwen and that Gwen needed to accept her mum's new relationship. Do you think Julia and James would have had their happy ever after if there had been no children involved?

littlerose12345 Tue 05-Jun-18 12:56:07

Have just finished the book, really enjoyed it and the writing style.

Do you have a specific place you do most of your writing?
Where would be the most ideal place for you to write?

puzzledpandacorn Tue 05-Jun-18 13:07:54

Finished the book last week and although I found the characters annoying (which I think is maybe the point?) I loved the storytelling! The way the narrative unfurls is great and although the subject matter was slightly predictable I thought the way the story was told makes this book very special..

I guess what I’d like to know is whether you ever took sides with any of your characters as you were writing the book? I was torn the whole way through with feeling sympathy for each character in turn, and it changed quite often and quite rapidly!! Is this something you experienced while writing or did you have a perspective you particularly sympathised with more than others?

MamaCBear Tue 05-Jun-18 14:26:49

Just finished reading this and echo other people's feelings of frustration with the characters, you could definitely feel the tension around their actions which made it quite difficult to enjoy at times. Need some time to reflect before tonight's chat.

ClaireTMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 05-Jun-18 17:21:54

Hi Francesca - I was wondering who you'd say your biggest influences are, both in writing style and in subject matter?

MamaCBear Tue 05-Jun-18 18:43:26

Thinking about the characters and in a family of obstetricians I was quite surprised at how quickly they all assumed Gwen was at fault and was making a mistake, at any point did you consider the outcome of the pregnancy going differently? Was quite poignant reading this shortly after the vote in Ireland and Gwen not being respected for her choice.

Also, which was your favourite couple to write about?

d1161119759230b002599 Tue 05-Jun-18 19:13:53

Hi. I really enjoyed the book and all the relationship ins and outs with both couples. My question is what inspired you to write about the step-siblings relationship? Is it something that you think happens often in real life?

impostersyndrome Tue 05-Jun-18 20:49:46

I also enjoyed the book. It confirmed for me the dilemma many people must have after divorce, whether they can marry someone else while they have children at home.

I was struck by how clearly the north London setting was described in all its social and physical detail. My question is, do you think the same scenario would have been easier or more difficult if the people involved didn’t have such comfortable lifestyles?

MiniMiniMiniBar Tue 05-Jun-18 20:54:24

Hi Francesca. I really enjoyed reading about the grandparents and I thought they were every bit as well-formed and interesting as the main four characters. Had you originally planned to give them a bigger part in the book? Do you think they learned anything from their children, or their grandchildren, or vice versa?

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 05-Jun-18 20:55:02

We're looking forward to our webchat with Francesca at 9pm. Just a reminder that everyone who joins us tonight will be entered into a draw to win a copy of next month's Book of the month: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. There's 10 copies up for grabs - good luck!

See you v shortly!

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 05-Jun-18 20:59:29

Welcome Francesca Segal once again to Mumsnet Bookclub. We’re really pleased that you’re able to join us to talk about The Awkward Age, which we’ve been reading over the last month. There's already some questions in, so will hand over to you. Can we also ask you the Mumsnet questions that we put to all authors:

What was your favourite childhood book?

What was the last book you bought someone as a gift?

And the last book you received?

And finally - can you describe to us the room where you The Awkward Age?

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:00:21

Hi, Everyone!

Totally thrilled to be hanging out on Mumsnet with you all.

Thank you so much for the comments already posted on the thread, it’s fascinating to read what all of you have made of the book so far. Half the fun of writing is hearing the different ways in which readers engage with a novel. Happy to answer any and all questions. Okay. Here goes! x

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:02:47

RachelMumsnet

Welcome Francesca Segal once again to Mumsnet Bookclub. We’re really pleased that you’re able to join us to talk about The Awkward Age, which we’ve been reading over the last month. There's already some questions in, so will hand over to you. Can we also ask you the Mumsnet questions that we put to all authors:

What was your favourite childhood book?

What was the last book you bought someone as a gift?

And the last book you received?

And finally - can you describe to us the room where you The Awkward Age?

My favourite childhood book was called ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS - I was absolutely obsessed with. It was about a little girl alone on a desert island... very much like a writer's life, in fact!

I bought SOMEONE AT A DISTANCE by Dorothy Whipple for my wonderful friend Vikki just last week.

It's sad but I can't remember the last book someone bought me!

I wrote the Awkward Age in the odd cafe, but mostly in The British Library, at desk 2082. Not that I am obsessive or anything.

BookerG Tue 05-Jun-18 21:03:03

Hi Francesca, I also enjoyed the book and with 2 teens can really identify a lot of the friction. I read the article in The Times on Sunday where you were talking about moving back into your family home. I wondered (if you're still there) how are family relations going? As much as my mum loves us (myself and my kids) she has a 2 night max rule. I think it’s sad but I can feel the tensions rising if we stay any longer, so I guess she’s got a point - I'm not sure she could tolerate us moving in!

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:04:45

MiniMiniMiniBar

Hi Francesca. I really enjoyed reading about the grandparents and I thought they were every bit as well-formed and interesting as the main four characters. Had you originally planned to give them a bigger part in the book? Do you think they learned anything from their children, or their grandchildren, or vice versa?

Hi MiniMiniMiniBar - I love reading that, because I think Philip and Iris were my favourite characters. Yes, I think you're right and they did learn something from watching Julia and Gwen, as well as reflecting on their own long lives revolving around one another. I don't think it's ever too late for a fresh start...

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:07:13

impostersyndrome

I also enjoyed the book. It confirmed for me the dilemma many people must have after divorce, whether they can marry someone else while they have children at home.

I was struck by how clearly the north London setting was described in all its social and physical detail. My question is, do you think the same scenario would have been easier or more difficult if the people involved didn’t have such comfortable lifestyles?

So much more difficult, I think. My characters are immensely privileged both financially and just in their general circumstances - money buys you freedom and choice, and the mere fact that James is a doctor connects them to a network of people who can help when they need it. I suppose you could argue that challenging situations become easier when you have absolutely no choice and just have to lump it, but I think my characters' social privilege eases their lives - and perhaps sometimes muddles their perspective a bit!

Belo Tue 05-Jun-18 21:07:55

Hi Francesca, I really enjoyed the book. I particularly liked the way the characters were described Gwen and Nathan were so well written - the perfect hateful selfish teenagers. In my understanding Nathan used Gwen as a plaything and Gwen used Nathan for revenge on her mother. I also liked Julia's in laws very much.

I would like to ask what was your starting point for the novel; was it the plot or a particular character?

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