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Q & A with author Lisa Jewell

Today we have a Q&A with Lisa Jewell, an internationally bestselling author whose new book, THE HOUSE WE GREW UP IN, is on sale this August from Atria. Lisa is a UK bestseller year after year, but we think THE HOUSE WE GREW UP IN is her finest book yet. It has something for everyone: family tragedies, hoarding, late in life internet lovers, mother/daughter and father/son battles. It’s enchanting, heartbreaking, beautiful, fun and full of emotional depth. We hope you love it as much as we do!

Tell me about the first book you ever purchased.

Strangely, I don’t have this memory at all. My sisters and I were library kids, our mother took us every week, so maybe I didn’t even buy a book as a child! My earliest memory of taking a book out of the library was one of the Ant & Bee series of books; these were quirky, almost surreal books about best friends Ant (an ant) and Bee (a bee) who travelled around together having offbeat adventures. I didn’t know it at the time but they were written by an educationalist to teach children to read by themselves.

Have you ever read a book in order to impress someone?

I was married to an intellectual in my early twenties and read pretty much every book on his shelves in order to impress him! The heaviest was probably a book of Noam Chomsky essays. My current husband forced One Hundred Years of Solitude onto me in the early days of our relationship, which I read to please him. And on which we still remain entirely divided.

What was your favorite book as a child?

I was a self-guided reader as a child and went quickly from the classics (the Secret Garden, the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe) to more adult books. But my favourites were my Agatha Christies. I read four a week until I’d bled the library dry.

Is there an author who inspired you to be a writer?

When I was between jobs as a twentysomething, still thinking that writing books was something only self-referential men and middle-aged women did, I read High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. It turned my thinking around and made me realise that there was a market for a younger, lighter, contemporary voice, and that it needed to be female. I started writing my first novel later that week.

Is there something on your bookshelves we’d be surprised to find there?

Quite the opposite, I think you’d find my bookshelves utterly predictable. Just piles and piles of page-turn-y contemporary fiction.

Tell me a funny/odd/interesting anecdote from a reading, or book signing.

This is very odd and I’m not sure particularly funny, but a girl once came to a signing holding my backlist and asked me to sign them all to her unborn children as she thought she was going to die young. It was a very strange thing to find myself doing.

What book are you reading right now, and why?

I am reading a book called We Are Called To Rise by an American writer called Laura McBride. It was sent to me as a proof by her UK publishers and I’m reading it because they did such a good job of making it sound like I’d be mad not to. I’m a quarter of the way through and so far I would say they were right.

Is there a book you re-read over and over?

No, I never reread. My reading pile is too big and tantalizing.

What book have you recommended most recently?

I think it would probably have been the only non-fiction I read last year which was Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe, a memoir of very funny letters from the nanny of a famous literary editor in London sent home to her sister in the Midlands in 1980. I’m not sure what an American reader would make of it, it’s very idiosyncratic and achingly British, but it warmed my heart and made me laugh an awful lot.

What book do you feel everyone should read?

If a reader has the gumption, I don’t think anyone should go their grave without trying a Charles Dickens.

About the Author

Lisa Jewell was born and raised in north London, where she lives with her husband and two daughters.  She is the internationally bestselling author of ten previous novels, including The Making of Us and Before I Met You.  Find out  more at or follow her on Twitter @LisaJewellUK.


Book Details

Meet the Bird family. They live in a honey-colored house in a picture-perfect Cotswolds village, with rambling, unkempt gardens stretching beyond. Pragmatic Meg, dreamy Beth, and tow-headed twins Rory and Rhys all attend the village school and eat home-cooked meals together every night. Their father is a sweet gangly man named Colin, who still looks like a teenager with floppy hair and owlish, round-framed glasses. Their mother is a beautiful hippy named Lorelei, who exists entirely in the moment. And she makes every moment sparkle in her children’s lives.

Then one Easter weekend, tragedy comes to call. The event is so devastating that, almost imperceptibly, it begins to tear the family apart. Years pass as the children become adults, find new relationships, and develop their own separate lives. Soon it seems as though they’ve never been a family at all. But then something happens that calls them back to the house they grew up in—and to what really happened that Easter weekend so many years ago.

Told in gorgeous, insightful prose that delves deeply into the hearts and minds of its characters, The House We Grew Up In is the captivating story of one family’s desire to restore long-forgotten peace and to unearth the many secrets hidden within the nooks and crannies of home.

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