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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.

Lifebeginner Tue 05-Jun-18 23:01:04

Thank you! Really enjoyed the chat grin

littlerose12345 Tue 05-Jun-18 22:34:43

Thank you! Great webchat! X

impostersyndrome Tue 05-Jun-18 22:09:41

Thanks! Night all.

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 05-Jun-18 22:03:18

Congratulations to: Miniminiminibar, Lifebeginner, Sallyswann, starlight36, FernieB, impostersyndrome, Belo, littlerose12345, Celama, MamaCbear, puzzledpandacorn who have all won copies of next month's book of the month: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. We'll be in touch by PM in the morning with details of how to claim your books.

Goodnight all x

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:57:24

RachelMumsnet

Sadly that almost brings us to the end the hour. Thanks so much to everyone who joined us tonight - it’s been such fun and a huge thank you to Francesca for your full and honest answers. My fave quote of the evening has to be from starlight who described you as “like a magpie constantly observing the behaviour of others and storing up titbits for inspiration” So true! Please do join us again and good luck with your next novel.

Final question -the winner of the Women’s Prize is announced tomorrow eve - have you read the short list and any thoughts on who will win?

Thanks again everyone. Just nipping now to the Mumsnet lucky-hat and will be announcing the winners of next month's books v shortly

Thank you so much for having me and for amazing questions - I've had a lovely evening.

I haven't read all of them but I adored Jessie Greengrass's SIGHT, and I think that's a strong contender.

Goodnight everyone - I'm off for a glass of wine in the bath before one of my children shouts for me. Thank you all, and thank you Mumsnet smile

Celama Tue 05-Jun-18 21:55:56

Thanks for answering. Yes, that sounds right! And still in agreement with others, Philip and Iris were great characters

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 05-Jun-18 21:55:08

Sadly that almost brings us to the end the hour. Thanks so much to everyone who joined us tonight - it’s been such fun and a huge thank you to Francesca for your full and honest answers. My fave quote of the evening has to be from starlight who described you as “like a magpie constantly observing the behaviour of others and storing up titbits for inspiration” So true! Please do join us again and good luck with your next novel.

Final question -the winner of the Women’s Prize is announced tomorrow eve - have you read the short list and any thoughts on who will win?

Thanks again everyone. Just nipping now to the Mumsnet lucky-hat and will be announcing the winners of next month's books v shortly

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:54:54

MiniMiniMiniBar

Sounds really interesting, can't wait to read! Quite in awe of you being able to write with twin toddlers at home!

it's going VERY slowly...!

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:54:25

Lifebeginner

Hi Francesca, I found with both The Innocents and The Awkward Age that they were as much about the quirksand inclinations of a particular segment of society as about the characters. How do you immerse yourself in the segment of society you choose to write about? Do you draw on experiences from the communities you are a part of?

I love this question. I think the best answer is that I draw on experiences of communities in which I am a peripheral part. It is always easiest to observe from the sidelines, I think. But maybe we writers always feel on the sidelines. I was an only child till I was nearly ten, too - I am very comfortable alone, taking it in. But I also adore social satire and comedies of manners - I think social portraiture is what I most love to read, so it is what I am naturally drawn to write.

MiniMiniMiniBar Tue 05-Jun-18 21:52:52

Sounds really interesting, can't wait to read! Quite in awe of you being able to write with twin toddlers at home!

Lifebeginner Tue 05-Jun-18 21:50:45

Hi Francesca, I found with both The Innocents and The Awkward Age that they were as much about the quirksand inclinations of a particular segment of society as about the characters. How do you immerse yourself in the segment of society you choose to write about? Do you draw on experiences from the communities you are a part of?

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:50:34

SallySwann

Which character is most like you and which character would you most like to be?

Well I am in awe of Iris and I love Philip - i don't know which character is most like me, that is a really interesting question. I think as writers we must place a little animating spark of our own in each character but maybe we aren't aware always of what that might be. I am probably a little bit in all of them.

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:48:38

starlight36

Hi Francessca,
I really enjoyed the novel and particularly enjoyed the characterisation of the main characters. You have perfectly captured the selfishness we all have, regardless of age. My question is how you find inspiration for your characters? Are you like a magpie constantly observing the behaviour of others and storing up titbits for inspiration?

Thank you so much.

Yes, I think so, but I am not one of those writers with a notebook and pen all the time. I write things down on scraps of paper and then immediately lose them, or write a shopping list on top of them. What salad of images and memories I have to draw upon is all just in my subconscious. I will say I am extremely nosy.

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:47:08

FernieB

The thing I found most helpful was when my twins were arguing, I'd go in and tell them both off. They quickly United in hating me and were friends again! This was far more effective than trying to get them to talk about the issue. It worked with 4 year olds and still works now at 18!

Oh, this is amazing!

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:46:45

impostersyndrome

Thanks for answering my question. Just wanted to add that I also really enjoyed your column on Sunday about moving back in with your mum. That bit where she collected you from the station: Makes me feel better about mollycoddling my student son!

Thank you! She arrived moments ago with a glass of wine for me at the computer. Mollycoddle away - we love it!

FernieB Tue 05-Jun-18 21:46:28

The thing I found most helpful was when my twins were arguing, I'd go in and tell them both off. They quickly United in hating me and were friends again! This was far more effective than trying to get them to talk about the issue. It worked with 4 year olds and still works now at 18!

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:45:42

MiniMiniMiniBar

Thanks for answering! On a totally different topic, are you writing a new book at the moment and if so are you allowed to say what it's about?

Yes - I am writing a non-fiction book about the fifty-six days that my twins spent in neonatal intensive care. Sorry to repeat myself as this is on another answer! But it is my love letter to the NHS, and to the amazing group of friends I made in hospital, the fellow mothers on the ward. I wanted to write a homage to that sisterhood. Total departure for me...

impostersyndrome Tue 05-Jun-18 21:45:06

Thanks for answering my question. Just wanted to add that I also really enjoyed your column on Sunday about moving back in with your mum. That bit where she collected you from the station: Makes me feel better about mollycoddling my student son!

starlight36 Tue 05-Jun-18 21:44:53

Hi Francessca,
I really enjoyed the novel and particularly enjoyed the characterisation of the main characters. You have perfectly captured the selfishness we all have, regardless of age. My question is how you find inspiration for your characters? Are you like a magpie constantly observing the behaviour of others and storing up titbits for inspiration?

SallySwann Tue 05-Jun-18 21:44:14

Which character is most like you and which character would you most like to be?

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:43:59

Belo

The parents ended up getting married and the two kids fell out and hated their step parents. The parents are still together and the last time I saw my ex-colleague, she told me that 15 years on the kids (now late 20s) has finally come to terms with the marriage!

Oh, it only took fifteen years. Excellent!

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:43:35

Heather2gether

Thanks for answering my question. Along with the frustrations and annoyance with some of the characters, I also thought it was really funny at times and also desperately sad. Do you deliberately set out to balance pathos and humour or does it just happen naturally?
spoiler alert: The chapters that deal with the abortion I found particularly upsetting. I guess particularly poignant after the irish referendum.

I think it just happens naturally in the writing. Or perhaps not in the writing but in the editing. I read back and if a chapter has gone somewhere dark there is an instinct to reach for some levity and humour as a tonic, or if you have had a lighter scene that is sometimes a good time to punch a reader in the guts. But I am not very theory-led with any of this, I just follow my ear.

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:41:35

FernieB

"I do adore angry hippies"**. grin. I used to know a couple.

I thought Gwen was very convincing. As a mum to teen twin girls I've experienced a few 'Gwen' moments where emotions rule. When she clearly didn't really want the baby but was too stubborn/scared to back down, I was smiling as I recognised this trait from my own teens.

Teen twin girls! Oh, this gives me the fear - my twin girls are two and a half and I am already quaking! Any tips?!

FrancescaSegal Tue 05-Jun-18 21:40:42

littlerose12345

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?

I used to write in cafes and I did for a long time but now I find more and more that I am bothered by the distraction, by peripheral noise, and by the need to pack everything up every time I need the loo (which is usually about once every twenty minutes). So now I usually go to the British Library and I sit at the same desk, at the same hours, and I find that gets the job done far better. I do believe the Pavlovian cues can really help. My brain says, 'ah, this is where we work'.

Heather2gether Tue 05-Jun-18 21:40:04

Thanks for answering my question. Along with the frustrations and annoyance with some of the characters, I also thought it was really funny at times and also desperately sad. Do you deliberately set out to balance pathos and humour or does it just happen naturally?
spoiler alert: The chapters that deal with the abortion I found particularly upsetting. I guess particularly poignant with the irish referendum.

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