5 Questions for Lizzie Enfield

Lizzie Enfield, is a journalist and regular contributor to national newspapers and magazines. Also she is now a new talent in popular women’s fiction is the author of  ‘What you don’t know’ Lizzie’s novel has been described as “deliciously witty, warm and written with a deftness of touch.”

What was the last book you read?
I’ve just finished reading if nobody speaks of remarkable things by Jon McGregor. The title is written like that with no capitals and the form of the novel is very poetic. Jon McGregor came second in the BBC’s short story competition. I hadn’t come across him before but I loved the story and wanted to read more of his work. if nobody speaks did not disappoint. It’s beautifully written and has a wonderful flow, quite different from anything else I have read.

Which book would you recommend to a younger version of you that hadn’t yet read it?
One which I am not sure exists and if it doesn’t I might write it. A book called something like “Babies and Young Children are Robust: you don’t have to worry that you are doing everything wrong!” There seemed to be a glut of childcare books when my children (14,11 and 8) were born and they all made me feel that I was doing nothing right. I read about a new book the other day and thought “oh no, another generation of new parents will be made to feel bad.” My mother was my best source of advice at that time. I liked her “We just left you in the pram at the bottom of the garden,” “Finish your dinner before you get the baby, crying never harmed a child,” and “My father never ate vegetables in his life
at least Lucas likes potatoes” approach. There’s a lot of angst about child rearing these days. I’d like to have a read a book which offered an “I’m sure you’re doing the best you can and by the time they are twenty whether you breastfed or not won’t make the slightest difference!” approach to the whole business.

What was the first book you remember having a big impact on you as a child?
I remember reading Jane Eyre and having nightmares about a madwoman hiding under my bed. That had quite a big impact on me and my parents were forever having to reassure me that Bertha Rochester could not possibly fit under my bed. Despite the nightmares, I loved the book and still do. There are so many different stories and themes which come out of it. I recently read Wide Saragossa Sea which is about how Mr. Rochester met Bertha and that is a wonderful book too.

What is the one book you are most eager to pass on to your children?
I would like them to read some of the books I loved when I was their age but so many books are written in the vernacular now that I think they find the language archaic and can’t get to grips with Jane Eyre or Little Women or Dickens. My eldest recently read “When Hitler Stole the Pink Rabbit,” which is an account of Judith Kerr’s escape from the Nazi’s when she was a child. My middle daughter is embarking on Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses, a fictionalized apartheid where the whites are the oppressed, both gripping reads but real eye openers to the world as well. I don’t think I am really eager for them to read any one book, I just want them to enjoy reading and to read books which affect and move them in some way and that seems to be happening.

From the cover of What You Don’t Know it would be easy, but wrong, to classify it as chick-lit? The themes in the book are as relevant to men as to women. Do you find it frustrating to be pigeon-holed or is it something you’ve come to terms with?
Well the publisher describes it as Women’s Fiction and I think the characters are too old for chick-lit, so if it’s anything it’s hen-lit! I know publishers like to put things into genres and if I had to describe the genre, I would say it was humorous domestic drama. I think there’s a lot of crossover between the genres. My agent represents Kate Atkinson and Sophie Hannah and I went to him because I really like their books which are considered to be crime novels but I think a lot of their appeal is in the domestic drama of the stories. Similarly novels like One Day by David Nichols and All the Hopeful Lovers by William Nicholson are essentially domestic drama but because they are written by men no
one would ever dare call them chick-lit.

Lizzie will be at WORDfest for the very special Baby Rhyme Time events on Friday 8th starting at 10.30am at Crawley Library.

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