Editor's note: The producers of Book at Beachtime write about a special season of readings for the summer on BBC Radio 4 Extra. The programmes can be heard from Monday 2 July at 2.30pm on BBC Radio 4 Extra.. Replay Marina Lewycka's live question and answer chat where she answered questions about her novels and work. PMcD.
It's always exciting when a series gets the endorsement of a second run and so we were thrilled to get a second chance to flag up some of the most exciting reads for this summer - whether the sun is shining or not! Last year we were there at the beginning of the runaway success that SJ Watson's thriller, Before I Go To Sleep, proved to be - who knows how our three chosen titles will fare this year, but what is certain is these are all writers at the top of their game.
As producers it was a perfect commission to receive in the drab days of the new year too. Suddenly we were whiling away many a cold and dreary commute into work with lots of fabulous reading that transported us across continents and back in time, invited us to fall in love with some characters and to shake our fists at others, spun us stories which gripped from the start and above all was reading that made us forget what was going on outside the carriage window for chapter after chapter.
And as it's become more difficult to use the train for audience research that was no bad thing. It's a little harder these days to take surreptitious peeks at what our fellow passengers are reading as the proliferation of e-readers has effectively put a stop to such snooping! It did encourage a little office discussion as to what people might be reading and wondering whether the arrival of the e-reader goes some way to explaining the sudden surge in literature of a more erotic nature.
While we can't promise listeners anything too frisky - we do go out at 2.30 in the afternoon after all - love and romance sits at the heart of all three of our choices, although fans of Freya North will have to return to the book to read the cheeky Restoration style romp which opens the story! We've also gone for comedy in quite a big way with stories and characters we hope will encourage plenty of smiles and even a laugh out loud moment or two.
GJ: I fell in love with the moustache twirling villain in Sadie Jones' The Uninvited Guests - he really does twirl his moustache! A country house drama, Edwardian England, upstairs downstairs tensions, larger than life characters - you think you are in familiar territory but in this world nothing is quite what it seems so prepare to be surprised as these characters embark on journeys in which they undergo quite remarkable transformations.
Reading Freya North's new romantic comedy Rumours made me think that I really should be a little more adventurous the next time I'm putting together a picnic - I discovered what a cornichon was and realised I'd never eaten one. I ended up wanting to live in the village of Long Dansbury and wishing for an encounter with Lady Lydia - although she'd probably eat me for lunch!
EA: Marina Lewycka's latest novel, Various Pets Alive and Dead is a real treat. Tense family relationship, socialist ideals, the 1984 miner's strike and the recent banking crisis had me racing through the pages. Told from the point of view of four family members, each with a distinctive storyline, it looked a casting challenge, but the wonderful Radio Drama Company came into their own. Here I found the perfect voices to play each of the characters. And so Christine Absalom reads Doro's story, Sam Alexander, Serge's, Susie Riddell, Clara and Patrick Brennan, Marcus. We had an energetic rehearsal where the five of us discussed the dynamic among the family members - and how each of them sounded. The result is a lively, comic and at times poignant listen, which has something to say about the state of Britain past and present.
Once again it's been a tremendous pleasure working on the series and we hope listeners will enjoy hearing the season as much as we enjoyed making it.
Elizabeth Allard and Gemma Jenkins are Producers of Book At Beachtime on BBC Radio 4 Extra