Jane Sullivan: On Storytime

Jane Sullivan is a literary journalist and novelist.  She writes the Saturday column ‘Turning Pages’ and book features for The Age. She won the inaugural Australian Human Rights Award for journalism.

Jane has also published two novels - The White Star (2000) and Little People (2011), as well as Storytime (2019), her reflection on rereading the books of her childhood as an adult.

Jane Sullivan_The Garret_2019


Astrid: Jane Sullivan is a journalist and a novelist. She has worked for The Age as a reporter, features writer and editor and now specialises in literary journalism including her regular Saturday column Turning Pages. She has published three books: the novels The White Star and Little People, as well as the literary memoir Storytime – Growing Up with Books. Welcome to The Garret Jane.

Jane: Thank you Astrid, good to be here.

Astrid: I found Storytime an absolute delight. I suspect we were quite similar as children: bookish beyond belief, hiding in our own worlds and imaginations. You made me remember what it was like to be a child and how I first fell in love with reading and you write on page five of Storytime right at the beginning, and I quote: ‘I hid proper books under my desk lid and read them on the sly’. That was me! (Laughs).

Jane: (Laughs) Yeah, it turns out to be quite a lot of people. I’ve been surprised how many people did exactly what I did. All ages and all types and all countries, they’ve been coming back and saying, ‘oh yeah that was me, I was like that when I was a kid’.

Astrid: I remember making a bargain with one of my teachers that as long as I kept my marks up, I was allowed to read whatever I chose, whatever I found in class.

Jane: Oh!

Astrid: Essentially not listening to her, as long as I kept going.

Jane: Oh, you’re lucky! I didn’t get that.

Astrid: I got that once—the rest of my teachers were not quite so accommodating. Now, I was really interested [in how] you recall as a child your parents and maybe some other adults in your life thought that your excessive reading was a bit suspect. Why do you think people react that way when children go into the world of books?

Jane: I think it’s probably something to do with any child who gets a bit obsessive about something. I mean, today it would probably be video games or something like that. Parents worry, they think oh they’re going off into this little world of their own, what are they doing? The real life is going on somewhere else, you know. When I was young the idea was you should go outside and play in the fresh air, that was supposed to be healthy. Now you needed to read, of course for school and so on and it was a good thing to be literate and to be able to read. But you weren’t really expected to read in the sort of obsessive way that I did, I mean I would just devour everything. If there’s nothing else, I’d read the words on the Corn Flakes packet.

Astrid: (Laughs)


Jane: (Laughs) I can tell you now how much riboflavin there is in Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, I think.

Astrid: Oh no, I don’t want to know that.

Jane: (Laughs)

Astrid: Now, part of the beauty of Storytime and this opportunity that you’ve given me and all of your other readers to reflect on what we were like as kids and what we read and how maybe those books and those authors shaped us over time. You actually capture it so well and I’d like to ask you to read a paragraph.

Jane: Sure.

‘And yet I have never felt again the way I first felt with my nose in a book. I think I have always been trying to recapture that feeling in my reading, and never quite succeeding. What was it exactly? Wonder, rapture, delight, surprised recognition, laughter – but also darker feelings that made my heart beat fast and my stomach turn over, and sometimes elicited a frantic urge to close the book before whatever it was sucked me in and destroyed me. But always, I read on. Books happened to me. I was helpless, I surrendered to them.’

Astrid: I do enjoy that paragraph, particularly the phrase ‘books happened to me’.

Jane: (Laughs) Yes. Although I later revised that, but that’s another story.

Astrid: Oh, did you?

Jane: Yes, I did. I decided that I happened to books because I changed them as I read them.

Astrid: Ah!

Jane: But it took me a long time to realise that.

Astrid: They do change us as we read them. Now, thinking about the books of your childhood and of my childhood, it’s a wonderfully nostalgic exercise but it’s not one without pitfalls. And as I was reading, I was reminded of the phrase ‘never meet your heroes’.

Jane: (Laughs) Yes indeed.

Astrid: So, as you point out re-reading the classics of your childhood—you can read Winnie the Pooh as a tale of addiction, poor Winnie; and Aslan of course, as it’s well known it’s a Christian allegory and at worst maybe even Christian propaganda. What was most surprising to you? What did you find about these books or authors?

Jane: Well, the first thing was a pleasant surprise which is that I actually still enjoyed the books. I was really, really worried that I would find them disappointing and that the magic in them would no longer be there. And that was such a fear of mine that I almost didn’t do the project because I thought, I don’t want all my illusions shattered. But in most cases I was surprised and delighted that these books still held a magic for me—maybe not quite the magic as when I read them the first time, but something very special. And in some cases—the Winnie the Pooh books, Alice in Wonderland and particularly The Wind in the Willows—I thought they were wonderful books and they had a kind of complexity that I didn’t appreciate the first time around. They’re very well written and I love them. But there were also surprises that came from disappointment and the great disappointment, I’m afraid, was Enid Blyton who I absolutely loved when I was a kid. I couldn’t get enough of her; I was addicted to her. Like most of my friends I was just waiting for the next book all the time and she wrote so many it wasn’t a long wait. But then I sat down to read, I think it was The Castle of Adventure which was part of a series of adventure books which I just loved about four kids—two boys and two girls who went off and had all these adventures. But what I discovered was that on the first page and forever afterwards, I discovered not only was she just a mediocre writer, she was a really terrible writer (laughs).

Astrid: (Laughs)

Jane: I could hardly bear to read on. There on the first page there was one character telling another character in great detail what the other character already knew—a classic mistake in beginner fiction, if you like. And then it went on. She described a scene and she said, ‘the hills were blue and rather exciting’ and that was her idea of setting the scene in description. And the characters were more or less all the same, except you could tell the difference by the colour of their hair and whether it was curly or not.

Astrid: Oh dear.

Jane: And that was about it. And the boys had all the fun and the girls just tagged along and made the sandwiches and screamed whenever anything frightening happened. And there we were, we were meeting all these cardboard villains with beards and scars and funny accents and I just read on and it became just a chore to get through 200+ pages. There were the kids climbing in and out of suits of armour in seconds, which I think would be a little bit difficult even for a medieval knight. And so, I just read on and at the end of it I thought, my god what did I see in her?

Astrid: I mean, I was given Enid Blyton as a child and I read as few as I possibly could. But I mean, she’s pervasive. Even now Enid Blyton books are still published, still reprinted, still given to kids.

Jane: They are huge bestsellers still. I mean, I think she’s eclipsed J.K. Rowling in terms of sales easily. She really sells all over the world and people still love her. So, I had to think well what was it about these books that I loved if it wasn’t the writing? And I always imagine myself as a kind of rather discriminating child who appreciated good writing. Of course, I was nothing like that at all. What I wanted was a story and that’s what I loved about Enid Blyton. Because she gave you a story and she gave you this story of children who are getting away from their parents, they’re going out and exploring and having these wonderful adventures which is what I wanted to have. I desperately wanted to have an adventure, but I was a bit too scared to have one in real life, so I could open the book and live vicariously through these children. And if I didn’t like the girls well that didn’t matter—if the girls were wimps, I’d just identify with the boys instead there was always that choice for me. I never had any problem with gender-bending when I was reading as a child. And there are animals—it’s always good to have a few animals around and exciting animals, and there was a little cockatoo called Kiki who was a big heroine of these stories, and I loved her. And there was food. We always had to have really exciting, scrumptious food to eat—picnics and so on.

And more than anything I think it was the idea that because she gave you so little description and so little character development and so on, you did that for yourself. As a child you filled in the gaps. So, when I came back to the story, I discovered that I still had a very precise image of that castle and the layout and the central courtyard and the cobwebs and the dankness and so on. And Enid Blyton hadn’t really described it, I just did it in my head and I could still see those kids as I imagined them. So, I think the great thing about the books is that they do teach kids to actually imagine for themselves and create pictures for themselves. And in a way the less description you get, and the less character information, the less the author tells you the more you can make up things yourself.

Astrid: I never thought of that, that’s actually a very good point. Now, in addition to experiencing your childhood favourites as an adult, re-reading these works with the benefit of hindsight and time exposed you to the authors themselves in a way that you certainly wouldn’t have been as a child. And I have to say I was particularly impressed with how you handled, or how you approached and reflected on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and of course Lewis Carroll’s reputation.

Jane: Yes indeed, that was a tricky one. When I was a kid I knew nothing at all about Lewis Carroll when I read those books, he was just this wonderful, funny guy who made up this terrific story about this little girl who I completely identified with and loved. And she met all these wonderful, strange and in many cases quite nasty creatures. And it was like a little girl dealing with the world of grownups and they were very censorious, and they told her off and they were quite cross with her a lot of the time. And of course, that’s the way grownups are—probably more in Victorian times than now, but even so I could relate to that. So that was all great fun and I loved it.

But then later on in my teens, at school we were asked to do a project on famous writers and write an essay. And I chose Lewis Carroll and I thought, well what do I write? So, I went down to the library and got out a book on Lewis Carroll—I can’t to this day remember what it was. But this was a book by someone who had looked at Lewis Carroll’s life and delved into what evidence there was in those days, which wasn’t much, but there was something. And he concluded that Lewis Carroll was a paedophile and that he wove these enchanting stories in order to ensnare little girls and presumably wreak his wicked way on them. And I thought, ooh this is pretty cool! I’m going to put this in my essay. So, I just copied down large chunks, I completely plagiarised it and I thought I’m going to get a terrific mark for this, I was really happy. But I got the worst mark I ever got for any essay at school and the teacher wrote at the bottom, she said ‘this is very good until you try to be too clever’. And what she said was that we should not question great men of genius and I’m still not sure that’s true, but I think she had a point in the case of Lewis Carroll. Of course, she didn’t write I plagiarised another book, if she had I probably would’ve got an even lower mark if that was possible.

And of course, later on there’s been a great deal more research and discussion and controversy about Lewis Carroll, or Charles Dodgson as his real name was. Was he just a kind of Asperger-y person who was a little bit limited in some ways—obviously a very brilliant mathematician—but very socially awkward and he just got on better than children than adults? Was that the truth? Or, was it that he had these desires that he might have repressed or indeed, he might have acted on we don’t know? And the evidence is not conclusive. We do know he took pictures of naked and near-naked little girls, but in fact that was quite a common Victorian thing and it wasn’t frowned upon in those days at all. The Victorians had very different attitudes to those sorts of things than we had. And there’s another theory that they covered up his stories of romantic liaisons with women because they didn’t want to intimate there was any extra-marital sex going on. So instead what you get is this sort of creepy bachelor figure when anything else is taken out. So, there you go, there are lots of different opinions and nobody knows for sure.

But I look back on that now and I don’t really like what I was thinking when I was a sixteen-year-old writing that essay because basically I was being too clever and I didn’t care about Lewis Carroll and I didn’t care about the real Alice—Alice Liddell, the girl who he befriended. And I think I just was being a smart-arse so I’m disappointed in myself looking back at it now.

Astrid: You can be disappointed in yourself as a sixteen-year-old but nevertheless I’m impressed that you were trying to grapple with what are eternal questions in art. I mean, if you don’t like an artist does that invalidate their art?

Jane: And of course, we’re dealing with that all the time now aren’t we with the #MeToo movement uncovering these things. And there’s a great deal of controversy about whether you can still despise a person but admire the art, and some people say you can’t.

Astrid: And some people say you can, it’s one of those unanswerable questions, I think. When you were writing Storytime who was your intended audience? Who did you want to reach?

Jane: I think I envisioned someone like me, and I was just hoping there were enough of them out there who would want to read the book. One thing I have discovered is in fact my audience is much wider than I imagined, because although the book’s only been out a short time I’ve already had lots of people come up to me and say, ‘oh it was just like that for me too. I remember, it was wonderful. Reading was so very special for me and I never quite got that back.’ And ‘this was my favourite book,’ and everyone wants to tell me about their favourite childhood book. And this is men, women, all ages, all backgrounds—anyone who had some kind of a reading childhood really responds to this. So, I’ve been amazed and stunned and delighted that the response has been so good. So, it seems that although I was writing for someone like me, perhaps there are more people like me out there than I thought.

Astrid: I like to think so, I like to think that there are readers everywhere. Your book is obviously structured in chapters that deal with an individual work that you return to as an adult and reread. I only share some of your childhood reading experiences.

Jane: Of course, nobody has identical…

Astrid: Oh, of course! I was very much with you on C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, for me it was The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. I did read, like you, Alice in Wonderland and Little Women—I didn’t particularly like either one of them and Little Women I’m going to say I was indifferent to/apathetic. I don’t know, were they too girly? I’m not sure, I never quite got into them, but the point was I enjoyed your chapters on them because you’re explaining to me, particularly with Little Women which you also don’t like…

Jane: (Laughs) Okay, a memo to Little Women lovers out there: you’re going to be offended now.

Astrid: We’re not the fans. No but it’s a fascinating exercise for me to be able to go back and you help me understand what I couldn’t express as a kid—why I didn’t like those sisters.

Jane: Yes and of course I didn’t really know when I read the book why it was I didn’t like the book. I remember getting very cross with it—I actually actively hated the book, not just disliked it.

Astrid: (Laughs)

Jane: And I’m not sure whether I finished it or not. It’s a very long book—it’s actually two books stuck together Little Women and Good Wives, but it’s usually sold in one package as Little Women and that’s how I read it. And I think it was a present. And I think I felt very strongly that I was supposed to like it because it was a famous classic book and it was a book for girls and there were very, very few books around for girls when I was young. So, I felt quite conscientious, I thought I’ve got to make an effort with the book. But I really got so cross with those girls and their mother, and the whole world that they were talking about just seemed immensely tedious to me. So, when I was putting this book together, I wanted to go back and read the books that I loved. But I thought, well this is such an amazing, special book to so many people—lots and lots of people quote it as their favourite book. I thought, well I should go back and give it another go and maybe I’ve wronged it in some way and maybe I would love it if I read it again.

So, I went back, and I read it and I discovered what it was I didn’t like about it. And there were two things: one was it was very moralistic as many books of that era were. It was always telling you what you should and shouldn’t do and the March girls are always trying to be good, and not always succeeding. But they were trying so damn hard to be good and I found that very annoying. And the little morals coming up in the text all the time. And the other thing that surprised me more was the character of Jo. And she is the sister in the family who is a budding writer and all budding writers, and I was certainly one, are expected to identify with Jo. And I’ve read no end of tributes to Jo from various famous women writers saying how she sort of started them off on their career. So why didn’t Jo have this effect on me? And I discovered that the reason was that I was jealous of Jo. I read this book when I was about nine and Jo I think in the story is in her early teens, and Jo was already writing stories and she was finishing them which I was not doing.

Astrid: (Laughs)

Jane: And she was sending them out to publishers, and she was getting published. And she was winning competitions, she was being paid hundreds of dollars. And then she had a novel published and that was greatly, warmly received. And I thought, well I can’t compete with this girl. She’s leaving me for dead. Here’s my brilliant career barely started, and she’s already leapt all the hurdles ahead of me. I don’t like this girl. And so, I just refused to identify with her at all and I got cross with her and I felt jealous of her. And when I read the book again, I was sad that I had taken that attitude because actually there’s quite a vulnerable side to Jo that I didn’t appreciate when I read the book the first time—she just seemed to me like an incredible smart-arse. But I could see now that she’s quite worried about her writing, she’s not sure whether it’s going to work or not. She’s torn between the desire to write something really fine and something that’s going to make some money, because the family’s hard up and she wants to support the family. And she’s given different advice by different editors and she ends up with this awful husband who I really, really dislike who’s this German chap who’s much older than she is and he’s a professor and he lectures her about her bad writing, her bad subjects and how she must write about something good and uplifting and I just wanted to throw the book away at that point. How could Louisa Alcott do that?

But when I also read about Louisa Alcott’s life, I felt quite a bit more sympathetic to the book because of course it is largely an autobiographical book. Louisa did live that kind of life herself—she had that mother and she had those sisters. And she had quite a difficult father, shall we say. He was a real eccentric and very, very strange and it’s a bit of a wonder that the girls survived that upbringing, I think. And in the same way as Jo she was ambitious, she really wanted to make her mark, she wanted to succeed. But she also wanted to support her family, that was very, very important to her and they were so hard up that at one point she considered suicide, apparently. And when I read this I felt, well it’s actually quite a fraught writing career for her. Little Women was enormously successful and then she went on to write sequels and I think the reason why it was so moralistic was because people expected it to be—her father would’ve expected it, her publisher would’ve expected it. Everyone would expect that if you wrote a book for girls you would be telling them what is the best way to behave, and what is not a good way to behave, and what they should do in order to become good wives and mothers. And this rubs up against feminist ideas very badly, I have to say but there it is.

Astrid: You made me laugh on page 127 where you write, and I quote: ‘I needed heroes, preferably girls, though I’d settle for a boy or an animal’. This really made me think, and I think this bares thinking about by all contemporary writers, particularly writers for children and young adults—what is it about a book that can capture the imagination and the wonder in such a fulsome way? Now, for you and me it wasn’t Little Women, but it was other works.

Jane: Yes indeed, yes.

Astrid: For me it was Badjelly the Witch by Spike Milligan, My Sister Sif by Ruth Park which still thrills me and The Witches and Matilda by Roald Dahl.

Jane: Yep.

Astrid: You know, I lived in those worlds. I thought that they existed for me and I could be in those books whether or not there was a female character or not.

Jane: Yes, very much. Yes.

Astrid: In Storytime, in each chapter you set yourself a hypothesis about why you liked a book and you really tease it out and try to unpick what might be attractive for a child. When you think about contemporary literature written in Australia today, how do you think that’s going? What do you see writers doing these days?

Jane: Um, well for one thing there’s a great deal more of it, which is terrific. I mean, there were quite a few books when I was young and in fact, I had a list almost as long of my books to consider as the ones I finally picked on. But still, they were nothing like the huge proliferation of books there is today. And in some ways, they’ve got immensely more sophisticated and I think they’re more ready to deal with dark themes than perhaps some of the books I read when I was young. Although, heaven knows they did deal with some pretty dark themes one way or another. I think there are some terrific writers for children today. There is a move lately to produce books that reach out more to girls and have girls as heroines and strong girls who are not just cast into those traditional roles. I don’t think anyone would write like Enid Blyton now—you would not have four kids going out and the girls making the sandwiches and screaming and the boys having the good adventures, you just would not do that now. And that’s a good move, I think. And of course we’re starting to see a move to be more inclusive when it comes to race, and all the books I read were about white people, white kids and it never occurred to me there was anything wrong with that because I was growing up in the ‘50s and early ‘60s and it just wasn’t on most people’s radar then. But I do think what if I had been a child of a different race? How would I have reacted to those books with nobody like me in them? And I think it would’ve been difficult. I think we’ve got a long way to go, but at least there’s started to be a move in that direction and that has to be a good thing.

Astrid: I was a kid in the ‘80s and I have to say all the books I remember reading were also written by white people, mostly white men, about white boys.

Jane: Yes, yes.

Astrid: Things are changing now, and it is past time. Representation does matter.

Jane: Yes, it sure does.

Astrid: Because we’re all marked by what we see.

Jane: Indeed.

Astrid: I’d also like to talk to you Jane about book reviewing.

Jane: Yes!

Astrid: Moving from your most recent book to how we critique and engage with the literature that Australia produces. Can I ask you about the Stella count to start with?

Jane: Yeah, I gather it’s improving isn’t it? I think the latest thing I read is that it’s got more balance than it used to be and there are more women reviewing books by women or whatever. Years and years and years ago I used to be books editor of The Age and nobody ever suggested that I should look at which books were by men, and which books were by women, reviewers who were men, reviewers who were women and whether I should try to balance them up in some way. It was not a question that existed then. I’m glad it does now. Of course, it makes an extra headache for literary editors to have to think about this, but I do think it’s good that they do.

Astrid: So Jane, I’d like to ask you about the Stella Count which is now in its eighth year and it looks at the gender balance in book reviews and literary criticism in Australia. What are your thoughts on the Stella Count?

Jane: I’m very glad it’s being done because I think it wakes people up to what is going on. When I was literary editor of The Age which was a very long time ago, the situation was that I would pick books to review and I would send them out to reviewers and it never occurred to me to think, how many books by men am I reviewing? How many books by women? How many men am I asking to review a book? How many women am I asking to review a book? I just sort of put together books that I thought should be reviewed with reviewers I thought would do an interesting job and gender didn’t really enter into it. But perhaps gender should’ve entered into it, because as the Stella Count has found there has been a disparity there that books by men tend to get reviewed far more often than books by women. And men seem to do more reviewing. Although the latest count shows that it’s levelling out which I’m pleased to see, which probably means that the Stella Count has had some effect, I think. I mean, I don’t think we should relax our vigilance, but I think it is a good sign that things are moving that way.

Astrid: I agree, they say you can’t measure what you don’t track and shining a spotlight on the gender imbalance in reviewing has been and remains important although I am, like you, glad to see that it is levelling out a little bit although there is a ways to go.

You have been actively reviewing and engaging in literary criticism for a while. Why is that important?

Jane: Well if you think of just Australian books, I mean I look at all sorts of books, but just thinking about Australian books I think we have a literary culture here that it’s very important to foster and support because the general world out there is not all that amazingly struck by books. You know, there are a few bestsellers that come out every year that practically everybody seems to read, but they don’t necessarily have much to do with quality. It’s more just that, ‘oh he’s reading it, so I’ll have what he’s having,’ kind of thing. So, as much as anything I like to draw attention to books—I think that’s really important, so people know about books. I would like people to know about the books that I think are good or that are worthy of attention in some way. And of course, it’s just my opinion. Others may think differently, that’s fine. And I think it’s good to get a discussion going about books too. Because reading is such, and everybody knows this, but is such a solitary activity. And when I was a kid reading, I had no idea that other people were reading the same books as me and experiencing similar things to me. I thought, this was my own little world that I discovered which is enchanting in one way but very limiting in others. So, I think one of the functions of the reviewer, perhaps the main function of the reviewer, is to inform others of what is out there and what may be worth our while having a look at.

And then from that we can go on to build some kind of idea of, the dreaded word, a canon and we can identify the books that perhaps we’ll all still be reading in 10, 20, 30 years’ time and we’ll be studying at school and university and so on. So, I think reviews have a really important part to play. And all kinds of reviews. I mean, it used to be just they were in the major broadsheets and perhaps a few radio programs. Now they’re all over the place, they’re all over the internet. And I think that’s good on the whole, although I must admit that some of the reviews on Goodreads I think are not terribly edifying (laughs).

Astrid: (Laughs) Well, Goodreads is a special place for reviews.

Jane: I’ve got nothing against Goodreads as such, you know but it’s just the forum for everybody. As they say, everybody’s a reviewer, which is sometimes a bit of worry because people just sort of go on and give it three stars or two stars and just mouth off a bit about it. And I think often it’s just frustration—people have to read these books at school, and they don’t like them, and they want to just let off steam about a book they don’t like. But a really considered review, a really thoughtful review which can also place the book in the context of other books and other writing and the issues that are concerning us at this time, I think that’s really important. And I’d like to see more people reading reviews, actually. And also, the other thing is please don’t make the review the substitute for the book, you know?

Astrid: (Laughs)

Jane: If you read the review, don’t just talk about the reviews you’ve read. Actually go and read a few books as well. Make time in your life for some books, I think that’s really important.

Astrid: Oh always, always. I think the problem with Amazon and Goodreads is that if someone chooses to leave a review there, there is no accountability.

Jane: Yeah.

Astrid: Whereas, if you publish on a blog or in a review outlet you are setting yourself up for people to disagree with you in a healthy way.

Jane: Yes, I think that’s true. And also, I think in a lot of blogs and other places like that, and certainly in the traditional reviewing outlets, the reviewers I’ve come across do take a great deal of trouble and effort to write the review and think about what they’re saying and so on. Whereas, some of the things that I read online seem to be dashed off in a fit of pique frankly. It doesn’t really mean much.

Astrid: I would agree. Jane I’d love it if you could leave us with two reviews: one recent fiction and non-fiction work.

Jane: Well there’s so many I could mention, but the ones that have just come to mind: Colson Whitehead’s book The Nickel Boys which I thought was very well-constructed, very moving and it packs an enormous punch. This story about the two boys who went to his home in America, two African American boys and what they went through in that place and how they came out at the end. I thought that was a very powerful book.

And the other one I’ll mention is an Australian book 100 Years of Dirt by Rick Morton which is a memoir. And again, I suppose it has something in common with the Colson Whitehead book because it is about someone who’s emerged from a very troubled and difficult childhood. And there are a lot of memoirs about that subject at the moment, which is interesting in itself, but I think this one is particularly interesting because he’s a journalist and he has that skill of combining his own personal story with actual facts and figures about class in Australia which is something that doesn’t get a great deal of attention, I think. It’s facts and figures, but it’s never dry, it’s very absorbing. And it does make you quite cross at times, it’s invigorating and a story that rouses you to indignation which I think is what it’s trying to do. But it’s also got enormous heart in it, it’s a wonderful tribute to his mother. So, both those books are different, with some things in common and both well worth reading.

Astrid: I’ve read neither at this point, I’m going to add them both to my list. Thank you very much Jane.

Jane: Pleasure, thank you!