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

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Seeing is Believing

It's been a busy couple of weeks! Two birthday parties - one for a 50th, one for our youngest nephew, who was two. Equally enjoyable, both of them.

There have been alternating hot and cold weeks: in the last hot one I spent four hours planting hanging baskets and urns and pots and troughs. Three days of watering in the intense heat and then it was time for another cold and wet week. The plants seem to thrive better in this odd weather than people do.

On the last of the glorious days my agent came out here for lunch and we had a good talk about future plans. Watch this space.

Then two visits to London: the first to see Sickerts in Dulwich (see below), the second to celebrate the 21st birthday of Kaye Umansky's Pongwiffy. There was a lovely party at her agent's - Caroline Sheldon - in her delicious house behind Notting Hill tube.

By the weekend it was so wintry that we practically had to light a fire. Instead we laid on a classic cream tea for two visitors.

Then back to London for the announcement of the new Children's Laureate - the wonderful Anthony Browne - and a meeting on Mike Rosen's Just Read campaign.

I've just had a visit from my old Florentine friend, Carla, and the sun shone for us. We had a lovely trip to Jaffe and Neale's bookshop in Chipping Norton - they don't have independent bookshops in Italy.

And then to Compton Verney in Warwickshire which is a beautifully run house and garden with an exhibition of portraits called Seeing is Believing including a couple of Holbeins, Cranachs and Reynolds.

I haven't spent much time at all on the novel.

I was very disappointed by the Sickerts, which were painted in Venice. Just perverse to go to a place characterised by the quality of the light and then make the paintings dull and dark. But it was worth it to see the Rembrandts in the permanent collection.

I read A.S.Byatt's The Children's Book - 600 or so pages.It's almost a masterpiece but she needs a strong editor or maybe she needs to listen to the one she has. There's a party near the beginning where we are told not only the names of everyone attending and how they are related to one another but also every detail about what every guest is wearing!

Since then I've read Penelope Lively's Making it Up, which is a sort of imaginary autobiography - a companion piece to Oleander, Jacaranda - which doesn't quite work.

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