By Annalena Mcafee
(Harvill Secker, Hardcover, 9781846554353, 320pp.)
Publication Date: May 2, 2011
List Price: $29.25*
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A deft, impressive debut novel--a dark hyper-comedy--published in Britain to great acclaim ("Wily, insightful, engaging" --"The Times"; "Brilliant . . . It grips from the first with verbal polish and razor-sharp satire" --"The""Mail on Sunday) "is set in London in the late 1990s during the height of the newspaper wars just before the dot-com tidal wave.
It is a novel about two women at different times in their careers--one a legendary war correspondent (called in her day "The Newsroom Dietrich" because of her luminescent beauty) now in her eighties, who, over the decades, as the golden girl of the press has been on the frontlines or in the foxholes in every major theater of war in the twentieth century (Madrid, Normandy, Buchenwald, Berlin, Algiers, Korea, Vietnam). The other, a young feature writer out of Media Studies, a list compiler (what's in/what's out . . . the ten best of anything), who writes for a newspaper gossip magazine and is sent to interview the doyenne of British journalists.
The eminent correspondent is about to have a new collection of her dispatches published. She is famously tricky and has made it clear to her publisher that the details of her private life are off-limits to interviewers.
The young feature writer doesn't have the time or the inclination to read either the woman's books or her clips. She's after the dirt on the old gal: who the former beauty palled around with, slept with, and the truth about her three failed marriages. The correspondent's life work--her courage, her objective prize-winning reporting--is of little interest to the young feature writer.
What starts out as a tango of wills and egos fast turns into a high-stakes game of cat and mouse, as secrets are revealed, lies unearthed and the stakes ratcheted up as two vying newspapers are drawn into the tug-of-war, with what each thinks is an explosive story, and with one paper playing off against another in a ruthless, desperate grab for sensation and circulation.
Annalena McAfee was born in London and worked in newspapers for more than three decades. She was arts and literary editor of the Financial Times and founded the Guardian Review, which she edited for six years. She is the author of eight children’s books and has edited a collection of literary profiles, Lives and Works. She has been a judge of the Orange Prize for Fiction, the South Bank Show Awards, and the Ben Pimlott Prize for political writing. She lives in London with her husband, the writer Ian McEwan.