Notes, stories & 100 essential recipes for midwinter.
From the best-selling author of Eat, The Kitchen Diaries and Toast comes a new book featuring everything you need for the winter solstice.
The 4thcoming series is all about introducing you to our authors. If you’ve ever wondered what your favourite 4th Estate author is currently reading, listening to or what their writing ritual is, then we’ve got all those answers for you.
Name: Elizabeth Day
What’s it about? A gripping story of obsession and betrayal, privilege and hypocrisy, set in the unassailable heart of the British establishment.
When it comes to career guidance, there’s certainly no shortage of books on the subject on offer. Rummage through the ‘careers’ section of any bookstore, and you’ll undoubtedly be confronted by an array of workplace manifestos urging you to ‘lean in’ and simply ‘think yourself rich’, perched next to volumes promising a 4-hour week, whilst exhorting you to ‘fail better’.
As a young woman trying to make my way in a creative field (advertising), I quickly found that these sorts of books contained little in the way of guidance for those who, like me, were just starting out – and crucially, they made few allowances for anyone whose definition of success didn’t align with their rather corporate narrative of corner offices and company credit cards. Nothing I found reflected the workplaces I was encountering, or career choices I was being faced with.
I first visited Svalbard in 2013, after forming the sudden conviction that I must see go to the Arctic and see the ice. I certainly didn’t have a story in mind, but something was tugging at me to go and have a look. Rubbernecking, maybe: see the ice while it’s still there. Polar bears are all very well, but that wasn’t my focus. I didn’t actually have one, which was relaxing. I was supposed to be on holiday.
The epiphany came when I was temporarily alone on deck – staring out at the peculiar beauty of a slow, semi-frozen satiny black sea full of huge white mosaic pieces of ice. I heard singing. Or rather, the sound of the ice bumping and creaking, I knew that was what it was – but I could also literally hear a strange a-tonal but very beautiful sound coming out of the water itself, as if the ice had a voice and was speaking to me in a tongue I had never heard. I was enchanted as if in a wild fairytale, and very sad to have to turn back when the captain said we might risk being stuck if it moved in and locked around the ship. It had a life, non-human and non-animal, but powerfully present. And I felt it.
I can’t remember when I started writing Reservoir 13. It’s been a long time coming, and it’s not always been easy. Life has often got in the way, as it has a habit of doing. None of the things that got in the way have ended up in the novel, but they’re still a part of the story.
Like most people my age I read the ubiquitous ‘big three’ dystopian novels (Atwood, Huxley, Orwell) in year 9 English and wrote some execrable essays about characterisation in them. Thanks to the pre-internet generosity of my teacher (and because she suspected it might be a good way of weaning me off the pulp space-operas I ploughed through by the shelf) I also walked around with Fahrenheit 451, A Clockwork Orange and Riddley Walker in my vast hold-all. (I carried every book for every subject with me at all times because I was terrified of forgetting one). Perhaps the two which made the biggest impact on me – deep cuts from my newly-qualified teacher’s collection – were We by Yevgeny Zamyatin and Nabokov’s Bend Sinister. The latter is a novel so spiritually horrifying that the author interjects towards the end to remind us that it isn’t real.
Today marks the publication day of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists on Audible, read by the woman herself.
‘I would like to ask that we begin to dream about and plan for a different world. A fairer world. A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how to start: we must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently.