Favourite School Story – Helen Hollick on Ruby Ferguson’s Jill Series

After reading two of Debbie Young’s Sophie Sayers mystery novels out of order, I decided to savour the series and start from the beginning with ‘Best Murder in Show’.  Debbie also writes St Brides, a British girls’ boarding school series for grown-ups, and in that vein she has interviewed award-winning historical and fantasy novelist Helen Hollick about her favourite childhood books.

Please read on…. Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Debbie Young

The fourth in my occasional series of interviews with author friends who love school stories

First in my own series of school stories for grown-ups

When I launched my St Bride’s series set in a British girls’ boarding school, I asked some author friends which school stories they’d most enjoyed when they were growing up and invited them to share their enthusiasm on my blog. So far I’ve run posts by Jean Gill talking about Anne of Green Gables, Helena Halme on Pippi Longstocking, and Clare Flynn on The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – all very different books set in different countries: Canada, Sweden and Scotland.

Now at last it’s time for my home country to get a look in, as historical novelist Helen Hollick explains her passion for a classic English series: the Riding School stories by Ruby Ferguson.

Helen Hollick writes:

First in my own series…

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24 Stories: of Hope for Survivors of the Grenfell Tower Fire

My emotions overcame me when I read this piece…read for yourself…

Book Jotter

by Kathy Burke (Editor)

24 STORIES COVERMy routine was much as usual on the morning of Wednesday 14th June 2017: I arose early for work, fed the chickens, settled myself at the kitchen table for my first cuppa of the day and switched the TV on to watch BBC News.

For several seconds I stared vacantly at the screen, unable to comprehend the shocking nature of the images I was seeing. There was a man sobbing incoherently to a reporter and then emergency services vehicles were shown illuminating huddles of grim-faced onlookers in their flickering lights. It began to make sense when the picture jumped to a high-rise block of flats of the sort you find in cities throughout the UK, except this one had taken on the appearance of an immense Chinese lantern burning uncontrollably over a sleeping city.

This was Grenfell Tower, a 24-storey Brutalist-style construct in North Kensington…

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Gilbert Keith Chesterton

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered.  An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”

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Quote from G. K. Chesterton who was an early 20th century British writer, poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, orator, lay theologian, art and literary critic and biographer.  Apart from many literary works, Chesterton is well known for his book series of Catholic priest-detective Father Brown.  These books were produced for television by BBC One with Mark Williams in the lead role.

Here is a small selection of Chesterton novels:

The Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904)
The Man Who Was Thursday (1908)
The Ball and the Cross (1910)
Man Alive (1912)
The Flying Inn (1914)
The Return of Don Quixote (1927)

Chesterton once said “Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.”

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

‘Breakfast With The Borgias’ by DBC Pierre

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Author interview March 2011 http://www.thewhitereview.org/feature/interview-with-dbc-pierre/

Correct thinking and clear vision are applied to wunderkind Ariel Panek, a computer scientist and associate professor but he is powerless when heavy fog sees him stranded overnight in the rambling, dilapidated Cliffs Hotel on the Suffolk coast.  Without connectivity, Ariel is tormented by the “no network” signal because he is overdue to talk at a conference in Geneva where he will meet his undergraduate girlfriend Zeva Neely.

Meanwhile the odd hotel staff and weird guests are making Ariel feel uncomfortable.  A bizarre set of circumstances conspire to prevent him leaving the hotel.  He must fend off unwanted attention, cut through the Borgia family secrets and subterfuge, and try to battle his way back to normality.

Reclusive, modernist Booker prize-winning author DBC Pierre has loaded this eerie Hammer Films-inspired novella with his trademark blend of social, scientific and spiritual matters.  Gradually the layers are peeled back to reveal the chilling truth behind this unsettling tale.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Reviewer Notes:
1.  The woman in the story who shares my first name is definitely not me!
2.  If you are reading this, Peter, I’d love you to autograph my copy of the above.
3.  My review of “Release the Bats: Writing Your Way Out Of It” by DBC Pierre.
4.  Synopsis quotation: “You can be insecure and be a writer.  You can be unsuccessful and be a writer.  You can be a bad person and be a writer … You just have to write.  That’s where it gets tricky”.

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Writer’s Guide