StoryWorld is the nation's favourite morning show, and producer Liz Lyon wants to keep it that way. Her job is to turn real-life stories into thrilling TV - and keep a lid on the scandals and backbiting that happen off-stage.
But then simmering tensions erupt at the station, trapping Liz in a game of one-upmanship where she doesn't know the rules. As the power struggle intensifies, can Liz keep her cool and keep her job? Does she even want to?
In this gripping novel of power, rivalry and betrayal, Jane Lythell draws on her own experiences of working in the glamorous, pressurised world of live TV.
Welcome to the Blog Tour for Woman of the Hour by Jane Lythell, published on 14 July in hardback and ebook by Head of Zeus. This is Jane Lythell's third novel. Her first, The Lie of You was published in 2014 and After The Storm, which I reviewed on Random Things, was published in January 2015.
The author's previous books were psychological thriller stories, Woman of the Hour moves away from that genre and looks at the life of a woman working as a TV producer, dealing with the stresses that go with it.
The story is structured very well, and allows the reader to have an insight into both of Liz Lyon's worlds. Narrated by Liz from two locations; the StoryWorld studios on London Bridge and then from her flat in Chalk Farm which she shares with her teenage daughter Flo.
Jane Lythell expertly creates the busy TV studio with the larger-than-life characters and their
enormous egos and the frantic pace of putting together a live TV show whilst ensuring that the celebrities, the presenters and the studio top executives are all kept happy. It's clear that the author has used her years of experience in a similar workplace, and this lends a great sense of authenticity to the plot .... it can also make the reader reel in horror, wondering how anyone can spend their days massaging the egos of these pampered people.
The stark contrast in Lyn's life, from TV producer to worried single-mum is done very well, and the scenes at home, between Liz and her daughter Flo explore issues including guilt, financial pressures and the needs and wants of a teenage girl.
Woman of the Hour is character-led, and there are some amazing, vibrant characters - some you'll love, and some you'll want to hate, but all of them are human and the author cleverly includes details that can explain some behaviours.
I believe that Woman of the Hour is the first in a new series and it has certainly whetted my appetite to find out more about Liz and her StoryWorld colleagues, and of course, about Flo. As an added bonus at the end of the book, the author has included some Comfort Recipes, for the Stressed Out. Perfect!
My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review and for inviting me to take part in the Blog Tour.
I'm delighted to welcome Jane Lythell to Random Things today, she's talking about 'My Life In Books'
I've been a passionate reader all my life and as a child would read my favourite books again and again. Knowing the plot did not spoil the pleasure at all. Here are two favourite books from childhood.
The Borrowers by Mary Norton This stimulated my imagination so much. I loved the idea of little people borrowing, not stealing, the things they need. They had their own code of honour and were never wasteful. Their names: Arrietty, Homily and Pod Clock are inspired because they are just that bit different and non-human. It's a wistful book too because I seem to remember that the Borrowers had once been taller but got smaller and smaller because of their fear. Now that is a powerful idea.
Anne of Green Gables series by L M Montgomery I read the entire series of Anne books. She is such a spirited character. I loved how she sparred with Gilbert Blythe. This was the first love story I encountered in fiction and it followed the familiar pattern of initial antagonism blossoming into love. I remember so well the scene in the classroom where Gilbert picks up one of Anne's plaits and declares:
"You mean, hateful boy!" she exclaimed passionately. "How dare you!"
And then - thwack! Anne had brought her slate down on Gilbert's head and cracked it - slate not head - clear across.
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell I read this when I was 14 and was consumed by all one thousand pages of it. I had borrowed it from Sheringham library and read it at every available opportunity. I remember vividly lying on my bed on my stomach as I read the last pages and Rhett Butler leaves Scarlett O'Hara. I was devastated. I must have lain sobbing on my bed for an age until my mum came in and said: "Oh well having a cry does you good."
Charles Dickens I had to include Charles Dickens in My Life in Books because he has given me so much pleasure and so much to think about my entire life. I try to read a Dickens novel once a year, sometimes it is a re-reading, and he continues to amaze and enthral me. My all-time favourite is Great Expectations though I also adore Bleak House and David Copperfield. Dickens is the great storyteller and the great populariser. Who can ever forget Miss Havisham, Abel Magwitch, Lady Dedlock, the Artful Dodger, Ebenezer Scrooge, Uriah Heep and his hundres of flawed and funny and poignant characters?
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge I studied English Literature at University College London and was introduced to the poetry of Coleridge. He remains one of my favourite poets and I must mention Frost at Midnight and The Pains of Sleep. However it is The Rime of the Ancient Mariner to which I return to again and again for its powerful imagery and its moral message.
The Stand by Stephen King This book terrified me and I had to keep the light on all night while reading it! I think Stephen King should get far more praise for the master storyteller he is. I think he's something of a modern day Dickens in the way he creates strong memorable characters and compelling storylines.
The Shipping News by Annie Proulx This is my favourite contemporary novel and my respect for Annie Proulx as a writer is huge. The Shipping News has everything I love in a book: a despised and hapless hero; a wonderful sense of place in the depiction of Newfoundland, the land of Quoyle's forefathers and a journey of redemption for Quoyle. I do not like hopeless books. I like there to be some light at the end.
I'd like to end My Life in Books with two recent reads that have wowed me. As a writer you go on learning all the time and the best way to learn about writing is to read long and deep.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carre I came late to John le Carre and am spending the summer reading his novels. I have enjoyed the four others I have read so far but Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is the one that blew me away. George Smiley is a wonderfully achieved character.
'Small, podgy and at best middle-aged, he was by appearance, on of London's meek who do not inherit the earth.'
But George Smiley has a brilliant mind and he sets out to unearth the mole at the heart of the UK's secret services. The book kept me entranced.
This Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson This is a majestic doorstep of a book that vividly brings to life Robert FitzRoy the Captain of the Beagle and his five year voyage with Charles Darwin to Tierra del Fuego, the Galapagos and beyond. The two men became close during the voyage but differences in their beliefs later started as a crack and widened to a chasm. There are some marvellous discussions between the two men on whether the Biblical Flood ever happened and whether species can transmute. The book has two descriptions of sea storms that left me in awe of Thompson's writing.
I have just noticed that there is a strong sea and sailing theme with my selection: The Ancient Mariner, The Shipping News and This Thing of Darkness and of course I wrote my own sailing book set on a beach in the Caribbean Sea: After the Storm.
Jane Lythell ~ July 2016
Jane Lythell worked as a television producer and commissioning editor for fifteen years.
She has been Deputy Director of the BFI and Chief Executive of BAFTA.
Woman of the Hour is her third novel, and the first title in the StoryWorld series.
Find her Author page on Facebook
Follow her on Twitter @janelythell