January 2020 Books

What’s new and good to read this month? Annakarin Klerfalk has a look at what’s on offer and chooses three good reads for January.

My Dark Vanessa

My Dark Vanessa is a powerful debut about school abuse, written by Elizabeth Kate Russell. The novel alternates between Vanessa’s present and her past and is timely in the era of #MeToo.
In 2000, 15-year old Vanessa becomes involved with her 42-year old English teacher. Vanessa is bright, ambitious and convinced that he is the great love of her life.

Many years later, Vanessa discovers that another former student has accused the same man of sexual abuse. Vanessa feels conflicted when a journalist wants her to tell the real story. Her relationship was loving, wasn’t it?

Stephen King reviewed it as “A hard story to read and a harder one to put down… a well-constructed package of dynamite.” My Dark Vanessa is published by Fourth Estate on 23 January.

American Dirt

American Dirt is a page-turning Mexican migrant novel, written by Jeanine Cummins. It tells the story of how Lydia and her son were forced to flee their home in Acapulco, to then illegally cross the US-Mexico border.

The local drug cartels were always a threat but Lydia was a happily married bookshop keeper, who thought their lives were fairly comfortable- until she made a mistake and the cartel went after her family.

Have Lydia and her eight-year-old son a chance at life? Jeanine’s book is terrifying as she gives a face to migrants everywhere who run for their lives. Don Winslow reviewed it as “A Grapes of Wrath for our times.” American Dirt is Tinder Press’ leading title for 2020 and it’s published on 21January.

The 24-hour Cafe

The 24-hour Cafe is written by Libby Page, the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Lido, which has sold in over twenty territories around the world.

The 24-hour Cafe is the cafe that never sleeps. Stella opens the doors day and night for the lost, the hungry, the morning people and the night owls. It’s a place where everyone is welcome and where anyone can be themselves.

We meet Hannah and Mona, who are best friends, waitresses and day dreamers. On this particular day, their friendship will be tested, the community will come together and their lives will be changed forever. The 24-hour Cafe is published by Orion on 23 January.

Annakarin Klerfalk

Anna is a literary agent based in Chiswick who is keen to hear from authors trying to get their books published. Contact her on anna@intersaga.co.uk. She used to run the Waterstones bookshop in Chiswick. You can read more about her and Intersaga here.


See more of Anna’s book choices here

Read about the annual Chiswick Book Festival here

Robin Knight wins Christmas Quiz 

Picture above: Dinner at Haddo House, 1884 by Alfred Edward Emslie

Local author Robin Knight has won the Christmas Quiz, run jointly by The Chiswick Calendar and The Chiswick Book Festival.

Robin is the author of Mike Cumberledge SOE, the biography of a wartime hero, and a former correspondent for Time magazine. He fought off stiff competition to win the prize, a beautiful Folio Society edition of Alain-Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes, donated by Foster Books. Robin had 37 correct answers out of a total of 40 questions.

Runners-up were Diana Oppe in second place, who scored 36 marks, and Sara Gronmark in third place with 35 correct answers. You can see the questions, which I know many of you have pondered, below, along with the correct answers.

Photographs above: Torin Douglas; Robin Knight

“Congratulations to them all – it wasn’t easy and we marked very strictly” said Torin Douglas, director of the Chiswick Book Festival, who judged the quiz with Bridget Osborne, editor of The Chiswick Calendar.

“We wanted exact answers – so question 8, about Alain-Fournier, needed to include the name Sanderson’s, not just ‘a west London fete’. Question 4 about John Osborne needed the fact that George Devine rowed out to his houseboat, not just ‘on his houseboat’. And for question 32, about the two artists who are featured on both Chiswick Timelines, both names were needed to gain a mark.”

All three finalists got question 26 wrong, leading the judges to look at it again. “We asked ‘Who gave the director Peter Brook, born in Chiswick, a special theatre award last month?’ “ said Douglas. “We were thinking of Evgeny Lebedev at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards in November 2019. But it turned out that Brook had also won Spain’s prestigious arts prize, the Princess of Asturias award, and this was presented to him in October by Princess Leonora. Since we had specifically said ‘a special theatre award last month’ we stuck to our guns!”

Photographs above: Ant & Dec, Ooh What A Lovely Pair; Stephen and Sarah Foster with a copy of Le Grand Meaulnes

Ant & Dec take Chiswick writers to 400

Torin is hell bent on proving we are the most literary post code in the country. So imagine his delight when Robin got one of the answers wrong, and with his answer, inadvertently tipped Torin off to a pair of authors of whom he was unaware. The knowledge that Ant and Dec have written a book take his list of authors who live, or have lived in Chiswick, or have written about it, to a nice neat 400. Don’t for God sake tell him of another one, or he will have to find another 99!

“One of the few questions which Robin Knight got wrong was No 18, about the autobiography of a Chiswick comedy duo” says Torin. “The correct answer was ‘Eric and Ernie’ but he put down ‘Ooh What A Lovely Pair’. I’m afraid I thought he was being facetious!”

Photographs above: Phil Brown, courtesy of Wookiepedia; John Osborne

Questions and answers

Here are the questions, with the answers, which can all be found by careful reading of the Chiswick Timeline of Writers and Books pages of the Chiswick Book Festival website.


1. Which Chiswick newspaper editor revealed the plot (dramatised in The Crown) to overthrow Harold Wilson’s government and replace him with Lord Mountbatten?


2. Which west London food charity was founded by the great grandson of the illustrator of the Chiswick Shakespeare? THE FELIX PROJECT

3. Who was the Star Wars actor who lived on a houseboat in Chiswick and whose wife wrote a book called ‘Swans at my Window’? PHIL BROWN

4. How did John Osborne receive the contract for his play Look Back in Anger to be produced at the Royal Court Theatre? GEORGE DEVINE ROWED TO HIS HOUSEBOAT WITH IT

5. Who was the Government minister whose parents arranged for EM Forster to be celebrated with a blue plaque at Arlington Park Mansions? ED VAIZEY

6. Where in Chiswick did the author of Empire of The Sun enjoy walking with his children? CHISWICK HOUSE GARDENS

7. 175 years ago in Chiswick, how many giraffes greeted the Tsar of Russia and Prince Albert at ‘one of the grandest fetes ever held in England’? FOUR

8. What event in Chiswick connects Alain-Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby? A FETE AT THE SANDERSON SOCIAL CLUB IS SAID TO HAVE INSPIRED A KEY SCENE IN BOTH BOOKS

9. What was Ralph Miliband doing in Chiswick when he wasn’t studying at Chiswick Public Library? CLEARING BOMBED OUT HOUSES

10. Which Nobel Prize winner lived in Blenheim Road? WB YEATS

11. Which Nobel Prize winner lived in Chiswick High Road? HAROLD PINTER

12. Which Booker Prize winner lived in Barrowgate Road? IRIS MURDOCH

13. Which Oscar-winning writer lived in Hartington Road? ROBERT BOLT

14. Which Oscar-winning actress lived on Chiswick Mall? VANESSA REDGRAVE

15. Name one of the two Chiswick writers buried in Poets Corner at Westminster Abbey. SIR JOHN DENHAM and REVD HENRY FRANCIS CARY

16. In what year did a Poet Laureate and an exhibition help save the first garden suburb from the threat of redevelopment? 1967

17. Which writer moved to Chiswick to mark William Shakespeare’s four hundredth birthday and discovered you could buy a house here for less than £3,000? ANTHONY BURGESS

18. Name the autobiography of the comedy duo who started their career in digs with Mrs Duer in Clifton Gardens. ERIC & ERNIE

19. What is the name of the house at Strand on the Green where the author of The Pursuit of Love and a celebrated ballet dancer have both lived? ROSE COTTAGE

20. Name the wife of the vicar of St Nicholas Church in Chiswick who wrote 600 letters to an Austrian refugee during World War 2? MOLLY RICH

21. Which treasure in the Bodleian Library was created by William Morris when he lived in Chiswick High Road? THE ODES OF HORACE

22. Which Chiswick gardener later became an MP and designed the Crystal Palace? SIR JOSEPH PAXTON

23. Who was the headmaster immortalised in the autobiography of a member of The Who, brought up in Chiswick? MR KIBBLEWHITE

24. Which Chiswick screenwriter received an Oscar nomination for a Beatles film? ALUN OWEN

25. Which Chiswick novelist’s “riotously funny account of a new mum who goes back to work as a spy” is recommended as a Christmas gift by the Telegraph’s Allison Pearson? ASIA MACKAY

26. Who gave the director Peter Brook, born in Chiswick, a special theatre award last month? EVGENY LEBEDEV (EVENING STANDARD THEATRE AWARDS)

27. Which Chiswick humorist died 50 years ago this month and was commemorated in The Oldie? STEPHEN POTTER

28. Which novel with scenes set in Chiswick was dramatised by Tom Stoppard for an award-winning BBC TV series starring Benedict Cumberbatch? PARADE’S END

29. Who called Chiswick House “my earthly paradise”? GEORGIANA, DUCHESS OF DEVONSHIRE

30. Name two people on the Chiswick Timeline of Writers and Books who created the musical Cats. TWO FROM: ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER, GILLIAN LYNNE, WAYNE SLEEP

31. Which Chiswick-born collector has a gallery devoted to his finds in the Museum of London? THOMAS LAYTON

32. Name two artists on the Chiswick Timeline of art and maps, the mural at Turnham Green tube station, who also appear on the Chiswick Timeline of Writers and Books? WILLIAM HOGARTH and ANTHEA CRAIGMYLE

33. Which two addresses in Chiswick have rival claims to be where Becky Sharpe threw the dictionary in Vanity Fair? WALPOLE HOUSE and CHISWICK SQUARE

34. In which book does GK Chesterton parody Bedford Park as “Saffron Park”? THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY

35. Where in Chiswick House can you find a portrait of Alexander Pope? THE BEDCHAMBER

36. Name the trilogy of novels, featuring scenes in Chiswick, by the writer commemorated with a blue plaque in Burlington Gardens. TWENTY THOUSAND STREETS UNDER THE SKY

37. 60 years ago, who topped the bill at the final performance at the Chiswick Empire? LIBERACE

38. Which member of a famous chocolate family has written about Queen Victoria’s matchmaking? DEBORAH CADBURY

39. Which Prime Minister is identified as No 100 in the key to the painting ‘The Royal Garden Party at Chiswick’. RT. HON. WE GLADSTONE

40. Which Sunday newspaper carried the headline “Put the word out: Chiswick may be the UK’s most literary location”? THE OBSERVER

Ruth Cadbury’s 2020 look ahead

Guest blog by Ruth Cadbury MP

After being overwhelmingly endorsed by local Labour members at the selection meetings at the start of October, I was honoured to be re-elected in the general election that followed, and am grateful to everyone who voted for me and who supported the campaign here in this constituency.

I believe a large part of the reason for the election result here was as a result of voters’ level of anger with the Tories over their austerity policies and with concerns about Brexit.

However, the results in London were not reflected across the UK. It was a dreadful election for Labour, and for the people of this country who need a Labour Government. Whilst Labour retained seats in English and Welsh cities, we lost seats and vote share virtually everywhere else. Labour needs to gain over 120 more seats needed to form a Labour Government, so we need a leadership team to transform our party to one that is seen as credible to the majority of voters in seats we’ve just lost, those we’ve lost since 2010; as well as seats like this. If you have been a Labour voter, I would welcome your views on who you think the next party leader, and deputy leader should be.

2020: Looking ahead

2020 has hardly begun, yet each new day brings further uncertainty. Trump instructed US forces to assassinate Suleiman (the head of the Iranian equivalent of the CIA and special forces combined) bringing an unprecedented level of tension to international relations.

It’s a month until Brexit yet we’re hardly further on in knowing the nature of our departure. And last week Dominic Cummings announced a fundamental culture change in the Civil Service and with it a further power grab by Government from Parliament. Despite his apparently radical agenda, Cummings clearly has no ideas or even interest in addressing the country’s top challenges; the distribution of power and wealth, gross inequalities and poverty, tackling climate change etc.

With a majority of 80 in the Commons, and so many of his moderate one-nation Tories gone, the Boris Johnson is now free to continue the destruction of our police, health, education, council and other public services started by his predecessors. Whilst there have been many un-costed spending announcements, with a Brexit-induced economic decline continuing, and the inevitability of ongoing tax-breaks for high earners and large corporations, this Government will have little ability to throw money around; so the cuts to our essential services will continue apace along with the devastating impact it will have on so many.

Heathrow: We are waiting for the High Court judgement on the judicial review of the decision to proceed with Runway 3 at Heathrow.

My Priorities: My colleagues and I now face being in continuous opposition for the months and years to come. Nevertheless I will continue to raise the impacts of Government policy that matter most to my constituents such as the housing crisis and poverty. Particular local focus will be on:

• addressing knife crime and support for our young people;
• services for children with disabilities and additional needs;
• Air quality and climate change – including the impact of Heathrow expansion
• The rights of leaseholders
• Having a third go at the London Marathon, and beating my 2019 time and fundraising total!
I will also play a continuing role on the All Party Groups for Cycling and Walking, and on the Loan Charge

You can find previous reports of my work on my web site; www.ruthcadbury.co.uk I also report regularly on my Facebook page and via Twitter and Instagram @RuthCadbury. You can see full details of my questions and speeches in Parliament, and get Regular updates about my Parliamentary activities on TheyWorkForYou

Ruth Cadbury is the MP for Brentford & Isleworth. Contact her at: ruth.cadbury.mp@parliament.uk 

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Thousands encouraged to join bad tax schemes

See also: Business as usual for Chiswick’s two MPs

Man in the Middle – Chapter 17: Resolutions

A middle aged man decides his elderly mother can no longer cope alone. Squeezed by the demands of the demographic time bomb and the requirements of the rest of the family, the Man in the Middle is bemused that life has become a hi-wire act, just when he thought it should start getting easier. How can he keep everyone happy and survive with his sanity intact?

If you’d like to begin at the beginning and missed the first instalment, you can read
No. 1: The Letter here

No.17: Resolutions

It’s New Year’s Day and everyone is slouching in front of the TV. Only the TV is off, because one of Wife’s New Year resolutions is that the family should watch less TV. She hasn’t quantified exactly how many hours of TV that means we can watch this year or how it’s going to be monitored. Nor are we clear if we each get our own allocation of hours or if there is just one giant family budget to draw down on.

Son suggests we use a model like the EU Emissions Trading Scheme with each of us getting a fixed number of TV hours at the start of the year which we can use up or trade with each other. ‘Think of it as a sort of carbon offsetting scheme with TV hours instead of carbon units. It will create a more flexible model better suited to the TV viewing needs of each individual member of the family while keeping a lid on the total TV consumption of the household.’

Daughter asks if she can sell all her TV units in one go because she is heading back to university next week and so shouldn’t be expected to participate in the scheme. She could also do with the money.

‘I don’t think the trade would be financial,’ I say, remembering the trauma when the children tried to trade stamps with each other.

‘On the contrary, I’d be happy to act as an exchange for the trading house. Though you’d all need to make a small deposit to underwrite the initial start-up costs,’ says Son.

Mother hasn’t said anything yet. But she’s tuned in. I think she is trying to understand if the proposed cap on TV might actually be serious. If so, we can expect a fight. Clearly, her TV consumption can’t be included under our family’s TV Viewing Cap even if she is the largest consumer in the house. Asking her to cut back her TV consumption is as pointless as asking the Chinese to stop building coal powered generators.

‘Shall we discuss it all over a beer down the pub?’ I say trying to break the conversation up before things get tricky.

‘I thought you were doing Dry January?’ says Wife.

Eleven hours into the New Year and I’ve already forgotten my one and only New Year’s resolution. The first sign of family difficulty and my sub-conscious is ordering a session IPA.
‘You’re right. But I’ll have something non-alcoholic.’

‘Let’s stay here, put the fire on and do something together. The Quiz of the Year or a puzzle.’

The children groan.

‘Like the old days,’ she appeals to us all.

‘In the old days, we’d have watched a movie together. Now we can never find something we all want to watch,’ says Son.

‘No TV. Until tonight. That’s that,’ says Wife, picking up the TV remote with a fierce grip. It’s clear it will be a fight to the death were anyone to try to take it off her.

‘Quite right,’ says Mother, in the stern voice she uses whenever she’s signalling that she wants to be taken seriously. ‘All of you. No TV till tonight.’

Mother admires decisive parenting even though she herself was laissez faire as a parent. Quite why she’s so keen on backing Wife’s ‘No TV’ policy is not immediately obvious.

‘If only I’d been as strong willed with you and your brother about the TV. You both watched far too much of it. Planet of the Apes and all that other rubbish. I blame your father he was never firm enough with you.’

It seems our New Year resolution has reminded Mother of an identical one of her own years ago to curb my excessive youthful TV habits.

Wife quickly lifts the newspaper up so we can’t see her face. Daughter leaps for the kitchen her eyes crinkled up. I think she’s crying. Or laughing. Son is googling something.

‘Nice one, Granny. Planet of the Apes. 1968. We can watch the original with Charlton Heston tonight. How about it, everyone? We’ve finally found something even Dad will like.’

Read more blogs by James Thellusson

Read the next in the series – Chapter 18: Kitchen Sink

Read the previous one – Chapter 16: Rorke’s Drift

See all James’s Man in the Middle blogs here

Read more on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

See also: Chiswick Calendar Blogs & Podcasts

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