At Tuesday’s Grazia Book Club at Waterstones we were treated to not just one amazing author but two – Allison Pearson and David Nicholls, debating whether only women can successfully write female characters. As our host Decca Aitkenhead said it’s a question she would have automatically said yes to before she read Nicholls’s 2009 book One Day.
Tracing the life of Dexter and Emma’s relationship across 40 years, he manages to create a female character that every woman utterly relates to – even in the smallest detail, like the Nelson Mandela poster she pins to her wall at university in the 1980’s. So was he surrounded by sisters, or was it his wife he drew on for inspiration for Emma’s character?
‘Actually there’s a lot of me in Emma, so in a way it was easier to write her character. Especially in my 20’s when it was a real shock leaving university, I had many of her insecurities and anxieties,’ he revealed.
Whilst Allison admitted it’s easier for men to write about women now there’s a wealth of media out there analysing women and their feelings – ‘Not like women trying to find out about men; that’s like Rwanda’ – she still believed there are certain subtleties about women that male authors will never get. ‘My husband doesn’t understand why when someone comes around for dinner I shove everything that’s messy under the sofa,’ says Allison. ‘I think we’re still more insecure as a sex.’
Both authors also reflected on what it’s like seeing their hit books reach the big screen. David had come from the set of One Day, where he’d watched Anne Hathaway play Emma. (‘Her northern accent’s really good,’ he reassured dissenters of her casting). And Allison had just heard the news that Sarah Jessica Parker will play Kate – the heroine of her first novel I Don’t Know How She Does It – in a screenplay adaptation set in New York. ‘There had been lots of speculation about the film version of the book for a while and when the rumour was that Nicole Kidman would play Kate, I had women write to me shouting that she wasn’t right because she was too cool. It’s interesting how women project themselves on characters in books.’
Check back later this week for a full video of the event in case you missed it. And we’ll be announcing our next Book Club event very soon so stay tuned for that, too.
A big thank you goes to Marks and Spencer for supplying us with lashings of champagne, as well as boutique bakery LOLA’s Kitchen for their yummy cupcakes. Which reminds us, exciting news reaches Grazia HQ: LOLA’s Kitchen opens at Topshop's Oxford Street store TODAY so we recommend getting down their sharpish to try them out for yourselves! As if the clothes weren't tempting enough...