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29 October 2014
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Jennifer Aldridge spills the beans on her "annus horribilis"

"But surely Jennifer must realise?" "When's she going to find out??" Throughout 2002, as Brian Aldridge, Ambridge's most prosperous farmer and her husband of 26 years, dallied under her nose with village doctor's wife Siobhan Hathaway, these were the questions on everyone's lips. Not just everyone in Radio 4's The Archers, not just the venerable soap's five million listeners, but, it seemed, almost everyone in the country.

As we now know, Jennifer did find out - memorably, on air, just before Christmas - not just about the affair but that crucially, with Siobhan, Brian had fathered his longed-for son. But what - if anything - had Jennifer suspected? Was she in ignorance or was she in denial?

Now, and only now, we learn the truth. For throughout her ordeal, Jennifer did, in fact, have a confidante. Jennifer's Diary, published by BBC Books on 9th October, price £12.99 (ISBN: 0563 487674), reveals her innermost thoughts as she turns for solace to the pink Smythson diary she'd begun some months earlier and whose early entries now have a terrible irony.

"We had the loveliest evening," she notes about their wedding anniversary in May, "then the very next day, poor Brian had the most awful accident - a hydraulic hose snapped and hit him in the face. He was lucky not to lose an eye" - the eye that Siobhan's irate husband, Tim, had blacked for him.

There's worse to come over Christmas and New Year as Jennifer, angry, hurt and humiliated, tries to rebuild her life with Brian and cope with her daughter Debbie's alienation and her son Adam coming home, then coming out. Seeking explanations, she revisits her past and her own doomed love affairs - and tries to look to the future. But there's still so much Jennifer doesn't know: that Brian sent a gift to his son's christening and that others in Ambridge are still in touch with Siobhan. Have Brian and Siobhan really said their final goodbyes? What feelings remain between them? And has Siobhan really gone for good?

Jennifer's innermost thoughts have been realised by Joanna Toye, the scriptwriter who proposed the original storyline and who has written a number of other Archers titles, including the Ambridge Chronicles Trilogy and Shula's Story. Two other Archers titles are published by BBC Books this autumn: Who's Who in the Archers 2004, by Keri Davies (price £3.99); and The Archers Quiz Book, by Trevor Harrison and Hedli Niklaus, (price £5.99), both published on October 2nd.



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