I’m not in a book club, but I’d like to be. I’d also like to be able to ask the authors questions directly. I Skype in to book clubs from time to time, and I know it makes the book club experience a completely different one.
And so…I have decided to launch my own book club. It’s virtual if you want to stay home in your slippers and join the author in a live facebook chat, but it’s also traditional, if you want to get together with friends (and wine), or bring your existing book club (and wine), to join in and ask the author whatever you want (with wine).
Ronni Sunshine left London for Hollywood in the sixties to become a beautiful, charismatic star of the silver screen. But at home, she was a narcissistic, disinterested mother who alienated her three daughters. Still, when Ronni discovers she has a serious illness, she calls her now-adult girls home to fulfill her final wishes.
Nell, Meredith, and Lizzy are all going through crises of their own. But as their mother’s illness draws them together to confront old jealousies and secret fears, they discover that blood might be thicker than water after all.
And now I am delighted to reveal this beautiful cover. I am so excited to share it with you and can’t wait to hear what you think!
Last week I got back from a college tour in California, and walked into my kitchen, having completely forgotten that we had renovated. Somehow the old kitchen with its ugly tile floor and falling-off cabinets had implanted itself in my head, and I walked in, momentarily delighted to see my kitchen again.
A couple of months on, this kitchen may be the best kitchen I have ever renovated, and I have renovated more than a few over the years. The Ilve Stove, aka The Sexy Beast, works just as beautifully as it looks, and I am back to cooking every night for the pack of kids (I have a bonus son for the next year, so we are back to five children at home. Long story. I shall save for another time).
I’ve even figured out how to use the French plate, although not without melting three plastic bottles and a packet of sea salt (that’s the problem with not using the French plate – it became an extra surface, and then I forgot it was on).
Every now and then I trawl the website of AJ Madison – the online store where I bought the Ilve – just to take a look at other stoves, to check I made the right decision, and I have yet to see anything more beautiful.
I have also learned the perils of a huge stainless steel counter when you have five cats, and have learned the easiest way to make that steel look as good as new. Johnson’s baby oil squeezed onto paper towel (not too much), shines the steel up beautifully. My wood-look tile and cabinets from Lowes are, if I do say so myself, genius. A tile floor with the number of bodies in this house, both four-legged and two-legged, is perhaps the most sensible decision I have ever made.
I am even training all the family to leave my beautiful Nantucket sink clean and empty, which is harder than it sounds. For some bizarre reason, everyone in my family goes through about four glasses of water each within the space of about two hours every evening, and each glass of water demands its own clean glass. The old glass is never put in the dishwasher, but left in the sink, and we are finally making some headway with the move towards the dishwasher.
Because we have had a garden filled with gorgeous flowers all summer, the vases on the island have been filled with fresh-cut flowers, although now we are heading into Autumn I am aiming to do something clever with white squash. I have no idea what it will be, only that I will doubtless be spending significant amounts of time on Pinterest for inspiration.
But mostly, the kitchen has done what it was supposed to, not just in terms of beauty, but in terms of gathering the people we love. The children no longer disappear up to their bedroom to do their homework alone after dinner, but sit around the kitchen table, working, and chatting, long into the evening. Friends have started dropping round again, and perch at the counter as I pour them a glass of rosé.
I said to Beloved at the beginning of the renovation, that once I had a new kitchen, I would be completely happy with the house and would never ask for anything again. So please don’t tell him that I am eyeing up the perfect spot for a sun room/dining room addition. Oh, and then there is the guest suite I’ve been thinking about adding above the garage…
I have long said that the single most important factor for a loving relationship is kindness; putting your spouse before yourself, making sure that their comfort and happiness is of paramount importance.
Most of the time I am very good at looking after my spouse and being kind to him. And some of the time I am not. I am ashamed to say that our recent trip home from Iceland was me behaving my worst, and I am only telling this story publicly in the hopes that I will somehow absolve myself of guilt, because I can’t be alone in the way that I reacted.
Beloved, as some of you may know, surprised us all by showing up in Iceland (points! So many points!). Because it was last-minute, there were no economy tickets left, so he booked the only ticket available, which was first class. I, on the other hand, was in Premium Economy, which I had flown on the way out, and it was all rather comfortable and fine. I didn’t mind that Beloved was flying first class and I was not. In fact, when he offered me the seat, I decided that he had been working so hard of late, he should keep the seat; he deserved it. Of course, I would have preferred that we sit together, but I didn’t need the first class food, I had my books, and I was planning to sleep much of the ride.
As we were waiting by the gate, I noticed a very glamorous, attractive woman. She was about my age, with long hair, big sunglasses, and a wickedly cool fur-trimmed parka. She had the sort of look that I sometimes aspire to, a sort of effortless casual cool, that looks as if you have just rolled out of bed looking perfect.
We all got on the plane, and I discovered I was not in the good Premium Economy seats (which were the same as First Class, but without the food), but in the small economy seats with extra leg room. I looked across the heads at First Class, and there was my husband, standing in the first row of his section, next to the gorgeous woman from the gate. They were both laughing at something, and I watched as they sat down in their giant, comfy seats, their heads bobbing as they chatting animatedly.
A stewardess came and offered them champagne, and handed them menus for their meal. I know all this because I kept standing up, muttering furiously as I looked across the seats to see what was happening over there.
My husband was having far too good a time. Not only was he flying in comfort, he now had a gorgeous companion, and I am ashamed to say, I felt a deep wave of resentment wash over me. And so, I reverted to my very worst behavior. Despite the fact that there was a loo next to my seat, I decided to go to the loo at the front of first class.
And when I came out, I could see my husband and his new best friend looking at me, clearly waiting for me to say hello, but I carried on walking past them as if I didn’t know anyone in first class, let alone my traitor of a husband.
Beloved came back and offered to swap seats, which of course I couldn’t possibly do, far too ashamed of my bad behavior. I am slightly worried he may never surprise us again so I may have to set new ground rules – whatever class we are flying, we must all fly together. And no-one is allowed to sit next to someone spectacularly attractive unless they are prepared to ignore them for the whole flight.
On that note, I shall also attempt to put my big girl pants on and act my age, rather than my shoe size.
Many of you know that my passions have long been community, and connection. I worry that by the time we hit mid-life, when our children have grown and flown, we are all increasingly isolated, hidden behind our computer screens and phones, forgetting how to connect, even though that’s what we long for.
It’s the reason why I started a creative co-working office space in my home town of Westport, CT, and the reason why, a few years ago, I started an active group in that same town that is now up to almost four thousand members.
Today, I am thrilled to announce the start of something special, combining community, connection, and the other thing I truly love…books.
Most of you on here are huge readers. Because there’s nothing better than discussing books you love with other smart women, I am enormously excited to be launching The Jane Green Book Club. Every month we will pick a book, and get together to discuss it. If we’re very lucky, we may even get the occasional author to join in.
If you really want to make the most of it, bring your book groups on board, or start a Jane Green book club yourself, joining in the fun. I’ll be posting recipes and ideas for what to serve, and the occasional live chat with our guest authors.
I can’t wait to announce our first book. I read it recently and completely loved it. To find out what it is, make sure you like the Jane Green Book Club Page so you’ll be the first to hear.
Tag your friends who are big readers underneath this post, and click on this link, and like the page: Jane Green Book Club
Every now and then I decide to give up caffeine, but it never lasts very long. Mostly because I am so extraordinarily healthy (mostly), that caffeine seems like the least harmful of all my vices, and so after a couple of weeks of mint tea (which is never the same), I start to think that life is too short, and go back to drinking my morning coffee, vowing not to give it up again.
Recently, my husband and I embarked on a three-month cleanse. In the past two months since we started, my husband has lost 20lbs and feels twenty years younger. I have lost almost nothing and feel exactly the same, apart from one significant difference: I am sleeping again.
I have not slept properly for years. I fall asleep quickly, but am always wide awake sometime between two and four, and am usually awake for hours, if not the rest of the night. The worst thing of all is that once I am resigned to being awake, I then reach for my phone, charging quietly on my nightstand, after which time all bets are off. I never thought you could spend hours on Facebook. What do all these people DO, I had wondered, hearing friends complain that they were wasting hours a day scrolling through their news feeds, until my middle-of-the-night sessions when I have found myself scrolling, sometimes until daybreak.
The cleanse we are on involves giving up all the usual things; essentially, anything delicious that makes life worthwhile. Sugar, carbs, dairy, legumes, alcohol, and caffeine. Some of it has been very easy for me. I haven’t really eaten a lot of dairy for years, so that hasn’t been a problem. Alcohol triggers my migraines, so I don’t drink. I thought sugar would be a hard one, but after a couple of weeks, I stopped thinking about it.
The one I was really going to miss, was caffeine, and because I decided to commit to this completely, I knew I had to stick to it. Along with the caffeine, I had decided to leave my iphone downstairs when I went up to bed. I wanted to get into bed and read, without having to put the book down every few minutes to check if something momentous had happened on social media since I last looked. I wanted to see what happens if I woke up at 2am, and didn’t automatically reach for my phone. I wanted to see if Beloved and I talked more, if neither of us were buried in our screens.
At this point, I have to say I am not someone who drinks a lot of coffee. Two cups perhaps, always in the morning, before 11am. I did not think for a second that it would affect my sleep. I do love a cup of tea, but only in winter, or I have a case of the blues. Not for a second did I believe giving up caffeine would affect my sleep.
How wrong I was. Once I get into bed, I have barely been able to read, because within three pages I am so sleepy, I have to switch off the light and close my eyes, after which point, I sleep like a baby. I still wake up at 2am, but now I am fast asleep again within minutes of getting back from the bathroom, with no phone to distract me and wake me up. When I awaken it is daylight, and rather than being 5am, it is usually 7am, and sometimes later. And Beloved and I talk! Yes! We actually talk!
I still miss my morning coffee. This cleanse is over in a couple of weeks, and there is much that I plan to continue. My life is much easier without sugar, and I feel better without flour. I would love to re-introduce coffee as my only sin, but I’m sleeping too well to even consider it, so shall spend this time trying very hard to develop a passion for mint tea.
When I was a very small child at junior school, I would often wrap my scarf around my entire head, and wander around the playground. Yes, clearly this was a little bizarre. I remember feeling completely safe, as if I was invisible, tucked up in my own little world.
I had the same feeling on the rare occasions we would have thick, pea soup fog in London. I had a long walk to the bus stop, and I remember very clearly walking through the fog, unable to see more than two feet in front of me, loving the isolation and peace, the feeling of being invisible.
This summer, I have discovered that a very large hat, with a downturned brim, gives me much the same feeling. Also, it is far more socially acceptable than wandering around with a scarf over my face, peering out through the tiny holes in between stitches in the wool.
For an introvert like myself, the discovery of a big hat may be life-changing. If I could have a superpower, it would undoubtedly be invisibility. Not for eavesdropping on people’s conversations – if I ever have the misfortune of overhearing someone talking about me, I scarper as quickly as I can, firmly of the belief that you are unlilkely to hear anything you will want to hear when you are eavesdropping – but for the feeling of privacy it allows.
I walked the beach yesterday with a giant hat on, the brim pulled low, so I could see everyone’s feet as they approached, but nothing more. And they could see a woman, with a giant hat on, so no-one (presumably) knew it was me.
There are days when I am quite sure I am an extroverted introvert. The truth is, I love people, and I am very happy in a crowd of people, as long as it is a crowd of people I have chosen for myself. I do not particularly like small talk, but I have a horror of running out of conversation, and so, should I find myself in an awkward conversation with a stranger, I have learned to fill silences with lots and lots of questions, and generally people are happy to open up and tell you about themselves.
There are days when I will gladly go to parties and chat, but there are other days when I would rather stick pens in my eyes than walk into a room filled with people I do not know. There are days when I do not want to see anyone, and I do not want anyone to see me, and although I do sometimes spend these days hiding at home, sometimes I need to be out in the world, even though I wish I wasn’t.
A very big hat is clearly the perfect solution to the days when the introversion gets the better of me, and I promise not to wrap a scarf around as well, unless snow is on the ground!
I am notoriously bad at booking things. Part of the problem is that I do things very quickly, and don’t have the patience to study the details. Invariably I am disappointed that things are not what I expect.
I also have an assistant who is very, very similar to me. This is why I completely adore her, but we are both disastrous at things like booking travel. I just want to get it done, as does she, and neither of us ever realize how long and complicated things can be, until I am actually on the road.
Eldest daughter was desperate for a spa day once we got to Lithuania, so I decided to treat the two girls, and my husband and myself. I am not good at spa days. I am spectacularly low-maintenance when it comes to looking after myself. It’s all I can do to get myself to a hairdresser a couple of times a year, let alone do things like facials and massages. It just isn’t in my DNA, but I decided to splurge.
I have no idea what I googled, but I came up with an amazing looking resort, just outside of Vilnius, that looked more like it belonged in Fiji than in Lithuania. It had Tiki huts on stilts on a lake, and was offering spa days that included massage, facials, steam room, saunas. And all for a ridiculously bargain price. I immediately booked four spa days, congratulating myself on my find.
Vilnius is very beautiful, particularly the old town. The taxi picked us up and wound us through town, before taking us to the countryside, which is rather grey and dismal. About twenty minutes later we pulled into a long driveway, at the end of which stood our resort.
I can’t say the pictures didn’t do it justice, because I’m not sure there were pictures of the front of the resort. It was very…. Well. I’m not too sure I can find the right words. It was huge, and empty. There was lots of orange wood that had been lacquered in high gloss, and slightly musty sage green carpets.
The spa was in the bowels of the hotel, and was empty, save for a woman with a hoover in the ladies changing room, which was vast, and marble, and smelled dank, as if it hadn’t been used for years.
It felt like a relic from Communist Russia. Our two girls looked at me, wide-eyed. We changed into threadbare robes, then made our way upstairs, to a few sunloungers outside. The sun-loungers were in a bed of weeds, at which point, I got the giggles.
“See?” I said to Beloved, who frequently says I was rather grand when we met. “You’ve knocked all the princess out of me.”
“And you’ve now gone lower than I ever would,” he responded, with a grin, at which point I looked around at the weeds, and became vaguely hysterical – I started laughing so hard, I was doubled over in pain.
“Can we, er, bounce?” said eldest daughter. As a famous newspaper used to often say, we made our excuses and left. And I have now been told that I am never to be put in charge of spa treatments again.
Years ago I saw a George Clooney movie called Up In the Air, in which he played a traveller so seasoned, he never ever checked his bag. Since that time, I have lived my life in a Clooneyesque manner, never ever checking my bag. It doesn’t matter where I travel, nor for how long, I manage to fit everything into my carry-on.
I have always been something of a light packer. My most important item has always been my hairdryer. I once travelled Europe with a backpack the size of the one my children take to school every day. It contained a handful of T-shirts and clean knickers, and a very large powerful hairdryer.
But my recent trip to Sweden, Iceland and Lithuania proved to be more challenging. Sweden required city clothes, and Iceland, layers of warm clothing including hiking boots and rainproof jackets. Lithuania was going to be hot again, and I had cocktail parties and perhaps dinner with other people, so needed something vaguely nice.
In other words, there was no way in hell I was going to be sticking to carry on. It was just this once, I figured; what could possibly happen?
I remembered we had an enormous suitcase in the basement, which I dragged out, and proceeded to fill to the brim. It was so full, it was groaning. I wasn’t sure it would make it without splitting.
The suitcase did very well in Stockholm, and Iceland, but sadly Scandinavian Airlines lost it somewhere between Iceland and Lithuania. Three of our suitcases went missing, and there was no-one to help us, nor answer our increasingly desperate plea.
After a couple of days, we learned our suitcases had been sent to Poland. We weren’t sure why, but it was quite clear it was going to be a while until we would be reunited.
And so I hit the shopping mall next to our hotel in Vilnius. Oh dear. This was not the smart shopping mall, this was the one filled with multi-colored polyester kaftans. Reader, I really tried. I am firmly of the belief that if you have a good eye, you can always find something good, and I very much believe that I have a good eye, but I couldn’t do it. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make the green and orange floaty nylon top work.
Eventually we discovered another shopping center. By this time we were all starting to smell, and drastic measures were needed. There was an H & M, which we all pounced on with glee. By this time, I was fed up, and tired, and not in the mood to try anything on. I gathered a handful of T-shirts, a pair of jeans, and on the way out, in a slightly dodgy shoe store, found some sandals that seemed the height of fashion in Lithuania, plus enough make-up to ensure I felt like me. Back at the hotel I discovered that nothing looked very good, but by then I was determined to make-do.
Our luggage arrived after four days. I have never been so happy to see my hairdryer, and my clothes. I celebrated with a hair wash, and I have decided that no matter the circumstances, I will never, ever be checking luggage again.
A few months ago my whole family discovered something brilliant on our iphones – an app called Find my Friends. I added all my children, and Beloved, and they did the same to me.
This is particularly brilliant for me at this stage of life because of the following scenario which occurred multiple times during any given week. What are you doing this morning, I will ask Beloved, on a Sunday morning. He will say words, and I will respond by making approving noises or telling him to have a good time, and a few minutes later I will ask him again what he is doing this morning. He will look at me in disbelief, and then say more words, that may or may not be the same as the words he said before, and I will nod approvingly and pretend that I am listening, and two hours later, when I realize he is nowhere to be found, I will send him an angry text asking where the hell he is.
He will then tell me that he has told me repeatedly where he is going, and I will deny it furiously, with every fibre of my being, convinced that he has not told me, and that he is in fact gas-lighting me by making me feel completely crazy. I will not, for one second, ever, admit that a lot of the time I do not listen to him. I will not, for one second, ever, admit that there is so much going on in my head all of the time, that even if I am looking at people, smiling, and nodding, the chances are that in my head I am thinking about something completely different.
I blame ADD. Which is besides the point. Since adding Beloved to Find my Friends, rather than send him furious texts or phone him demanding to know where he is, I click on the link and see that he is at the gym. Oh yes, I think, now I remember him telling me that. Or I see that he is in a neighboring town. Ah yes, think I, I do vaguely recall him mentioning lunch with a business colleague who lives over there.
Find my Friends has done wonders for our relationship. He no longer things he is married to an angry crazy woman with early-onset dementia, and I no longer find myself despairing over where my husband disappears to. Although, he still disappears. I’m just going out to get some groceries, he will say, and three hours later I will track him on Find my Friends and discover he is at the boatyard, discussing outboard motors for the Boston Whaler.
Beloved also knows where I am all the time. Thankfully, I have nothing to hide, but my goodness, I have no idea how people conduct affairs with all the apps and texts popping up on your screen all the time. I have heard of people who are unfaithful having second phones, but I have a hard enough time keeping track of one phone, let alone two (never mind the fact that I am hopeless at secrets not to mention very happy in my marriage).
I am also busy tracking my children, but I am very careful to pretend that I am not in case they should decide to remove me. I phone them all the time asking where they are, when I can see perfectly well they are at the beach, or at a friend’s house.
Somewhat worryingly I have found myself attempting to track my friends when they are late. I have gone as far as opening the app, wondering where Sophie is, or whether Nicole is on her way, or is Dani back home. And then I remember, this is for family only.
I’d very much like it for my friends, but I think it’s epically stalker-y, and so I will keep on wondering where they are, and I will keep sending texts, having forgotten entirely that they have already told me they are on holiday for two weeks. Hopefully, because they are all women of a certain age, rather than think I am losing my mind, they will know exactly what it’s like.
In the meantime, I’m off to check what Twin B is up to today…
Jane Green is the author of seventeen novels, including sixteen New York Times bestsellers. She has over ten million books in print, and is published in over 25 languages.Full Bio