Janice YK Lee

Mariella Frostrup talks to writer Janice Y K Lee whose first novel The Piano Teacher was an international bestseller. Her new book, The Expatriates, explores the lives of three American women living in Hong Kong, and the challenges of their privileged but isolated lifestyle.

Also on the programme Dr Sarah Dillon continues her series of Close Readings with an analysis of the comic genius of Cold Comfort Farm, and we help a listener overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of books available.

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28 minutes

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Thu 21 Jan 2016 15:30

Close Reading of Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

In the large kitchen, which occupied most of the middle of the house, a sullen fire burned, the smoke of which wavered up the blackened walls and over the deal table, darkened by age and dirt, which was roughly set for a meal.  A snood full of coarse porridge hung over the fire, and standing with one arm resting upon the high mantel, looking moodily down into the heaving contents of the snood, was a tall young man whose riding-boots were splashed with mud to the thigh, and whose coarse linen shirt was open to his waist.  The firelight lit up his diaphragm muscles as they heaved slowly in rough rhythm with the porridge.

He looked up as Judith entered, and gave a short, defiant laugh, but said nothing.  Judith crossed slowly over until she stood by his side.  She was as tall as he.  They stood in silence, she staring at him, and he down into the secret crevasses of the porridge. 

̒ Well, mother mine, ̓ he said at last, ̒ here I am, you see.  I said I would be in time for breakfast, and I have kept my word. ̓


Judith’s breath came in long shudders.  She thrust her arms deeper into her shawl.  The porridge gave an ominous leering heave; it might almost have been endowed with life, so uncannily did its movements keep pace with the human passions that throbbed above it.

 ̒ Cur, ̓ said Judith, levelly, at last.  ̒ Coward!  Liar! Libertine! Who were you with last night?  Moll at the mill or Violet at the vicarage?  Or Ivy, perhaps, at the ironmongery?  Seth – my son… ̓  Her deep, dry voice quivered, but she whipped it back, and her next words flew out at him like a lash.

̒ Do you want to break my heart? ̓

̒ Yes, ̓ said Seth, with an elemental simplicity.

The porridge boiled over.

Read the opening chapter of The Expatriates by Janice Y K Lee

The Expatriates: Chapter 1 by Janice Y K Lee


Role Contributor
PresenterMariella Frostrup
Interviewed GuestJanice YK Lee
Interviewed GuestSarah Dillon

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