Mary's musings

Mary Hoffman, author of over 90 children's books, including the Stravaganza series and Amazing Grace, has begun a web journal which will be updated roughly once a week. You can read more on

Friday, October 19, 2007

Ladies who lunch

It was another weekend of parties, taking two daughters and their men out to dinner on Friday then going to a black tie do for the birthday of a member of our extended family (loosely speaking) on Saturday. He's a doctor so there were lots of medics, which made a change from all those literary parties. How often do I find myself socialising with a nice othodontist?

Then there was vigorous square-dancing before driving back late at night. I was the designated driver and therefore sober; everyone else fell asleep. How thankful I was for the company of Tim the voice of SatNav!

We got back after 1am but I had to be up and doing next morning for a radio interview on Five Live. My princess article had been published in the Guardian on Friday and I was asked to do this thing - then the interviewer was fantastically hostile and I wondered why I bothered. But Amanda Craig gave Princess Grace a lovely review in the Times on Saturday too.

On Monday I met Celia Rees for lunch in Oxford and we set the children's book world to rights. Then on to Rhiannon's for tea and more plotting. Wednesday it was lunch with Cindy Jefferies and Katherine Roberts in Witney - I could get used to this.

I've started researching Troubadour but will have to stop to do City of Secrets corrections - however the edits have arrived and are much lighter than usual, so it shouldn't take long.

The school visit to Milan is making progress - I hope they won't mind that there is no Stravaganza book planned for that city!

I saw - and wished I hadn't - the Dispatches programme on Channel 4 about Madeleine McCann. They had sent five experts to Portugal - ex-policemen, forensic psychiatrists etc. and they had no more idea than 5 people plucked off the street would have done. It was narrated by Juliet Stevenson - but an appalling waste of money. Also saw the second half of the Tristan + Isolde film on TV with Rufus Sewell as King Mark, which made adultery seem very unlikely.

Better was the DVD a writer friend lent me of Vittorio da Sica's film of Il Giardino dei Finzi-Contini by Giorgio Bassani. The film-maker made explicit what the book did not - the brutal arrest and deportation of the rich Jewish family of F-Cs, showing that privilege bought nothing from the fascists.

I read The Tenderness of Wolves by Steph Penney, which is currently being dramatised on the radio. Not as wonderfully well-written as the Costa judges said - "nauseous" for example? But not bad. I wouldn't rave about it.

My event in London tomorrow has been cancelled "because of the rugby." Don't mind at all; I shall make jam!

Monday, October 08, 2007


My Italian class started up again this week - we have THIRTEEN members. unfortunately we are doing more 19th century stories which are LONG.

We had the launch party for Princess Grace in a downstairs room at a restaurant in Soho serving Italian tapas - very nice. I was staying at a weird hotel on Gower Street where lots of things were got wrong and I was on the very top floor - no lift. Must have been good for my heart, especially when I chose the wrong staircase (there were 5) after the Grace party!

Then to a wonderful prep school in Dulwich early next morning, where the IT didn't work properly but the boys were lovely. They are obviouslt taught history well well and got the di Chimici/de' Medici parallel straightaway.Then on to the Guardian award party, where I didn't get the prize but there were only four books on the shortlist. And I had a huge group of supporters from Bloomsbury, bless them.

Sunday was the Cheltenham Festival and a panel on historical fiction with Sally Gardner and Julia Golding. The very good green room provioded not only tea and scones before but a proper hot meal afterwards.

I saw the film of Atonement with two friends, since Stevie didn't want to go. It was a pretty faithful rendering of the book - which I did not particularly admire - and visually exquisite. Wonderful performances by James McEvoy and, briefly, Vanessa Redgrave. Even old Keira Knightly wasn't too bad. One of my friends had been to drama school with Benedict Cumberbatch, who played the villain. But the trouble with McEwan is that he isn't complicated enough for me - the plots always hinge on one event. And I simply didn't believe in the switched letters or the crudely expressed one.

I at last finished La Storia, which was both impressive and depressing. Reading the introduction afterwards I found that La Morante invented the whole thing as back story from a newspaper cutting. Also read L'Assedip di Tortona (The siege of Tortona) by Niccolo Tommaseo, this week's 19th century story. Only it wasn't a story really - more of a historical account of a terrible piece of cruelty by Frederick Barbarossa.