Notes From The Cotswolds… In praise of a chunky novel… by Penny Parkes
2022/01/19  |  By:   |  Features  |  


Over the course of writing my last six books, I have discovered that readers have incredibly strong opinions when it comes to the optimal length of a book – from the absolute ‘I will not even pick up a book that’s more than 300 pages’, all the way to ‘I want to be transported for as many pages as possible – the longer the better.’ It’s not quite the literary equivalent of Marmite, but nevertheless it’s got me thinking.

Back in the day – when I would pinch the entire family’s allocation of library cards and ‘stock up’ once a fortnight – a chunky novel was my nirvana. Driven in part by practicality, there was an overwhelming desire to check out my maximum escapism quota with those well-worn cardboard tickets. With the benefit of hindsight, choosing a book by weight in the 1980s may have led to some questionable content for a young reader – Judith Krantz, Penny Vincenzi, Jackie Collins, M.M.Kaye and of course our dearest Jilly Cooper were my teenage bread and butter. A few ‘Flowers In The Attic’ and a rather eye-opening adventure with Harold Robbins certainly put paid to any last return to Mallory Towers.

But somehow – gradually, insidiously – these giant tomes have shaped my reading life and, as my exhausted editor will attest, my writing life too.

The blueprint for a story is set in my heart.

Is a book even a book if you can devour it in one sitting? And how many times have I longed for just a few more chapters, a few more nights’ reading, having become so emotionally invested in a novel, in the characters and journeys within? Utterly bereft after turning the final page?

Although, of course, as an adult I find myself time-poor and grasping for opportunities to read. I may tell the people in my life that it’s “part of my job”, but that doesn’t make my twenty-four hours any longer, despite my worrying levels of sleep procrastination.

And so, I have declared 2022 my year to explore – short stories, biographies, slender classic novels that have thus far slipped under my radar. I am game to give short and sweet a try. And maybe, just maybe, this new template will refashion the blueprint in my writing life as well. (As I’m sure my lovely editor can only hope!)

In the meantime, I shall plant another few trees to salve my conscience and invite you to spend a few evenings on your squishiest sofa, under your warmest duvet, travelling vicariously with Anna on her quest to find a place to call Home.

The paperback is out this week (neither too short, nor too chunky) and I’m assured that this particular story lends itself extremely well to a read-a-long with your best friend, wherever they may be. Assuming, of course, they have similar views on Marmite.

With love


Top View Magazine Mockup by Anthony Boyd Graphics

Top View Magazine Mockup by Anthony Boyd Graphics

Top View Magazine Mockup by Anthony Boyd Graphics

Top View Magazine Mockup by Anthony Boyd Graphics