I completed the Faber Academy’s Writing A Novel course in Richard Skinner’s class of 2017/8, and am working on my debut, The Punishment, a story about angry women, sisterhood, and suffering. It is a response to Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, giving voice to the women, while exposing – and silencing – the bullying head of the family.

What do you owe your family? What does your family owe to you?

The Punishment is narrated by two sisters, Cat and Bianca. Cat is forthright, Bianca pliant, but both women are struggling against the roles they have been assigned. An antihero for the #metoo generation, Cat calls out men’s transgressions small and large, with a fury ready for any fool in her path. Her sister Bianca, a decade younger and a former ballet dancer, is living with the pain of her injuries and the legacy of a coercive coach.

When their mother dies, the sisters’ lives are thrown into turmoil. Valentina had left the family home, a farm in east Kent, when Cat was a teenager and Bianca a child. They have to learn how to mourn her – and look after themselves – for a second time.

Cat and Bianca are forced to confront their elderly father, and discover that his account of their mother’s misdeeds and his own history doesn’t add up. In the meantime, Cat is occupied with escaping a toxic work situation and branching out on her own. Both women struggle to find peace between the liminal spaces of the city and the country, the expectations of family and independence.

Reading women
Because I like to have my hands full while I’m sitting around, I have also decided to try and read 52 books this year. I am only reading books by women, to try and redress the balance of voices in my brain, of which I’ll write more later. Kamila Shamsie, this year’s Women’s Prize winner, suggested publishers have a year of only publishing women, which inspired me to do this. Some people keep to this challenge by posting their reads on social media, but I haven’t got there yet and already half the year is up. So I’m posting my mini 10-minute reviews here, maybe some cross-posting will arise if I ever catch up with myself.

UPDATE: I survived the reading challenge of 2018, I explain how here, and am now reading books by non-women as well, though it’s June and I’ve only read two by men so far. Oops.