“A wickedly funny feel good novel about love, lies and middle age” – now that looks like one I’d enjoy, doesn’t it? I’m delighted today to be joining the blog tour for Not Having it All by Jennie Ensor: having recently regained the publishing rights, the book has had a bit of a makeover – a little editing, the lovely new cover – and is now available for kindle via Amazon in the UK and US, with the new version of the paperback available soon (also via Bookshop).
“I read most of the book with a smile on my face; a fabulous bit of feel-good fiction” – The Book Magnet
This is the story of four middle-aged people who are definitely NOT having it all. Meet Bea, Kurt, Maddie and Colin.
Senior lecturer Bea Hudson juggles her job at the ‘Psycho Lab’ with looking after her demanding five-year-old daughter, badly-behaved dog and next-to-useless au pair. When her chief exec husband is sent overseas and she’s left without childcare, Bea turns to best friend Maddie for help.
Kurt, downing whiskies in his hotel room as he imagines what his wife is up to, is convinced that Bea is becoming a little too friendly with Maddie. With characteristic obsession he enlists his neighbour’s help in a secret surveillance operation.
Found-object artist Maddie longs for a child of her own with a man she can trust – and he must love cats.
Divorced, risk-averse Colin is a senior manager at ‘the nation’s number one pussy insurer’. When he meets Maddie in a lift he’s smitten, and resolves to displace Maddie’s feline companions on her sofa. But he starts to fear that Maddie sees him only as ‘a handy stud with a fat wallet’.
Can Bea and Kurt find happiness again? Can Maddie and Colin risk falling in love?
A story about love, relationships and second chances, perfect for fans of Marian Keyes and Jojo Moyes, and anyone who loved Bridget Jones’ Diary or Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. If you enjoy novels with depth, heart and laugh-out-loud humour, you’ll love this razor-sharp romantic comedy like no other.
I’m rather kicking myself that I just couldn’t fit this one into my reading list, but it’s a real pleasure to welcome Jennie as my guest. “Anything you like”, I said – and she’s chosen the perfect subject…
As Anne said this post can be about anything, I’ve tried to gather my thoughts on humour in novels.
My third book Not Having It All: a hilarious comedy about love, lies and middle age is my first novel that isn’t a thriller of some kind. Genre wise, it’s a relationship comedy with a stirring of romance – a dark romantic comedy even, if there is such a thing. A few weeks ago I decided on impulse to give the book another lease of life, hoping that in these uncertain, angst-ridden times readers might appreciate something that made them smile.
The story is told through the journal entries, emails and letters of a group of interconnected characters. The main character, Bea Hudson is a scientist, wife and mother pulled towards breaking point by the incompatible demands of her family and her career (she’s a researcher into anxiety and phobias).
Bea’s friend Maddie, who wishes she could have a child and is fond of Bea’s daughter Fran, starts going to a therapist when she starts to think about the unthinkable. (‘I’d give anything to have her child – a child like hers, I mean’.) Meanwhile, Bea’s husband, lonely in his foreign hotel room, resorts to bribing a neighbour to watch the family home house for signs that Maddie and Bea are getting up to anything untoward…
There’s all sorts of humour in NHIA – witty remarks, wordplay and various madcap, surreal or farcical situations. In spite of that, the book explores serious issues such as childlessness, and darker aspects of the psyche, eg envy and obsessive jealousy. Very possibly the humour gave me permission to go to places that I wouldn’t otherwise have dared to visit! (It also led me in some quite unexpected directions, which anyone who reads the book will find out.)
I’ve always been fond of disturbing themes in novels – crime and psychological thrillers are one of my favourite genres. Often these are mainly serious (apart from so-called ‘cosy’ crime) though they do often contain a laugh or two, such as when detectives use black humour to deal with the awfulness of what they have to deal with in their jobs. I love how Belinda Bauer uses humour in her crime novel Snap, for example.
To my mind, humour in all its guises can go hand in hand with the darkest of subjects. Some of the novels I’ve enjoyed the most have an undercurrent of dark humour running through them (a torrent, in some cases): The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan, My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, Where’d You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple, Me Before You by Jojo Moyes and the unforgettable Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeywell.
The humour in these novels fuses perfectly with the bleak subjects at their heart – whether that is coping with grief or disability, fear of decline and death, or the loneliness of modern life and being unable to conform to what others expect.
Now we’re in a pandemic and there are so many more fears and anxieties arising from the state of the world, I wonder if comedic and humorous writing might become more important than it has been. Whatever happens in the world, I’m hoping readers will keep seeking out novels which use a healthy dose of humour to explore the darker things in life.
Thank you Jennie – wishing you every success with this one!
Jennie is holding a prize draw to celebrate the relaunch: you’ll find the giveaway post pinned at the top of her Facebook page, and the draw will be made at 6pm on 23rd February.
First prize: £20 National Book Tokens gift card (if winner lives in the UK) or a $25 Amazon.com eGift Card (if outside the UK), a signed paperback copy of Not Having It All plus a box of Guylian Finest Belgian Chocolates with Hazelnut Praliné Filling to enhance your reading experience.
Runner-up prize: A signed paperback copy of Not Having It All and a bar of her favourite chocolate
The prize winners will be notified on her Facebook page, and by email.
About the author
A Londoner with Irish heritage, Jennie Ensor began her writing career as a journalist, obtaining a Masters in Journalism (winning two awards) and covering topics from forced marriage to accidents in the mining industry. She isn’t afraid to tackle controversial issues in her novels, either: Islamic terrorism, Russian gangsters and war crimes in her debut Blind Side (a psychological mystery blended with a love story), domestic abuse and sexual exploitation in her second, The Girl In His Eyes.
Her third novel Not Having It All, a relationship comedy, is an excursion to the brighter side of life. A new edition was published in January 2021.
Ms Ensor’s poetry has appeared in many publications including Poetry Salzburg Review, Ink Sweat and Tears. Her poem ‘Lost Connection’ placed second in the Breakout Prose category of the Fish Lockdown Prize in 2020.
In her spare time (?) she reads, walks and attempts twice-weekly yoga. She regularly cycles the punishing hills of north London and at the end of the day enjoys collapsing with a bar of chocolate/glass of strong alcohol in front of a TV crime drama.