In the lead up to Christmas 2014 we will publish a series of festive and inspirational posts written by the authors at The Madeleine Milburn Agency.
Teresa’s debut RECIPES FOR MELISSA will be published by Bookouture in Spring 2015 with foreign rights sold in Germany, Israel and Brazil.
‘Christmas jumpers welcome….but NO cardigans!’
*A festive invitation to Edith Hope from HOTEL DU LAC by Anita Brookner*
Don’t get me wrong. I like cardigans. I have a couple of favourite, soft and silky numbers. But on this special Christmas invitation to a fictional character, I am going to have to be strict…
Dear Edith Hope,
I would like very much, if you do not have other plans, to welcome you at my Christmas table. Forgive me for the cheek. It sounds patronising, I know. But I have worried about you ever since I read about you (in Hotel du Lac – Anita Brookner: a favourite book) falling for all those unsuitable men. You are so bright. So witty. You deserve so much better. Just forgive my rudeness – and do, please, leave the cardigan at home. Wear something sparkly!
It’s true. I really have thought often about “poor” Edith Hope . I re-read Hotel du Lac only recently and it hit me all over again. Oh – that brilliant writing, Anita. And yet the aching sadness of clever, lonely Edith who wears the wrong kind of cardigans. Who watches and thinks way too much. Always just slightly on the outside.
And here’s my festive confession. When I first fell in love with Hotel du Lac, I was just a little bit afraid I might become Edith. Smart Ms Hope (wrapped in her unflattering knitwear) who day after day watches a mother and a daughter with bemused envy, wondering why she is not quite like other women.
Ouch, Ms Brookner.
For I had a little spell like that. Watching, I mean. On the outside.
My mother died of cancer when I was seventeen and I spent years quietly watching mothers and daughters and struggling very hard not to show on my face what I was feeling inside.
Strange to think of it now. Gregarious me. Journalist, TV presenter and yes – now mad-crazy and very happy author. But back then for a while when I lost my mother, I really did feel on the outside of things.
And yes. Silly as it sounds, I was afraid of turning into Edith Hope. Of setting myself apart. Of hiding behind my writing, falling for the wrong men and never being at the centre of a happy family. The noise and the buzz of life.
But – here’s the thing.
I somehow got very lucky! I found the kindest of men (and wonder every day how, on earth, he puts up with me!). We have been married for 23 years and have two wonderful sons. And Christmas is my absolute favourite family time of all – driving all around me crazy – with my carols. And my baking. And my obsession with matching wrapping paper to gorgeous, shiny ribbon.
And in the midst of it all? I always steal a quiet moment among the chaos to count my blessings. To think…first and foremost of the mother I, of course, still miss very much. And also “poor” Edith Hope – that lonely writer I was once afraid of.
So what I am hoping now is this.
That Edith will reply as follows:
Thank you for your kind invitation but I am actually mad with plans for Christmas! You won’t believe how it all turned out. I ditched the married man and fell head over heels for the owner of a marvellous book shop. We have four children and 12 grandchildren now. So – it’s all chaos and a houseful for the holiday! But – so nice of you to think of me. Have a Happy Christmas yourself.
PS What cardigan? I will be wearing these, my dahlings!