I consider myself pretty good at keeping secrets. Tell me about your affairs, your face lifts, your clandestine liaisons with Barry in Client Services and it will go no further. But knowing that ‘You Me Everything’had been selected for the latest Richard and Judy Book Club and not being able to say a word about it for months . . . well, that’s been a challenge.
It was back in the spring when my editor Jo Dickinson phoned to deliver the news that my book had been selected. As I’ve been longing to make it onto this list for years, my first instinct was to shout it from the rooftops. ‘One thing though,’ she added. ‘DO NOT TELL A SOUL.’ That’s the rule, until the day the list is announced by WHSmith, who run the club exclusively. So I’ve spent the last few months only being able to discuss my most exciting book news of 2018 with my agent, editor, husband and the dog.
The Richard and Judy Book Club is a big deal for authors, but the reasons for my own excitement go beyond the sheer number of readers that it can reach. As an avid reader and one-time book club member myself, I’ve been devouring virtually everything the pair have recommended for years. Their picks, along with Simon Mayo’s on the Radio 2 Book Club (RIP), were my go-to choices before any holiday, a stamp of quality and reliability that has never let me down.
Some of my favourite novels of the last five years were ones I first picked up because they were on this list: The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. Me Before You by JoJo Moyes. I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. And the book I’ve loved most in 2018 so far: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.
Taking part has been a wonderful experience too. I was invited to London earlier this month to be interviewed by Richard and Judy for a WHSmith podcast that will be broadcast in August. I can faithfully report that they are every bit as warm and charismatic as on television, but what I most loved about them is how passionate they are about books - and the selections for their own club.
Every one of the novels that appears on the list has been read and personally chosen by them. As such, their questions felt particularly insightful, they delved into the choices I’d made as an author and made some candid observations about the book’s themes. (As a side note, although my own interview isn’t broadcast until later in the summer, I’d highly recommend the series to anyone interested in good books and writing).
While this has been quietly happening in the background, along with lots of planning meetings with my publisher and agent, I have done as asked and not told a soul. But, now the news is out. I can finally do that rooftop shouting (sorry neighbours) and tell the world that I’m in fine company on the latest Richard and Judy list - with Joanna Cannon, David Baldacci, Rachel Hore, Leila Slimani and Greer Hendriks and Sarah Pekkanen. You can read about their books on the WHSmith Richard and Judy blog. And if you’re discovering my novel for the first time through the club, or any of these authors', may I wish you a fabulous summer and many hours of happy reading.