Julie Myerson has written five novels now, but I grew to love her in her columns in The Independent
some years ago. She was born in Nottingham
in 1960, and now lives in Clapham
in south London, with her husband Jonathan
, himself a playwright, producer, and critic, and their three young children Jacob, Chloe, and Raphael. I miss her columns. She revealed a lot; she taught me a lot. Julie Myerson is one of my favourite writers, and I'd like to write... I could never write like
her, but I'd like to achieve the same realism
, the heightened focus on very real everyday feelings.
Her first novel, in 1994, was Sleepwalking, based to a significant extent on her own life: her distant, emotionless, abusive father, who stopped seeing his daughters and eventually committed suicide. She had already revealed a great deal in her weekly columns in The Independent, and it was disturbing finding it translated into material for fiction. Susan is pregnant, very pregnant, and begins an affair with a young artist. She is also haunted by children from her family's past. She is also relieved that her father has finally killed himself. She tries to work out what to do with all these emotions, and lacks.
In The Touch (1996) Myerson deals with a group of young people who discover a mad Christian tramp, trying to help him, but he enters their lives and disturbs them, and attacks them, in a horrible way they could not have imagined.
In Me and the Fat Man (1999) her heroine, a waitress who earns extra by giving blow jobs to men she picks up in a garden for the blind, once more gets into a difficult, awkward sexual relationship with someone who is not at all the conventionally beautiful hero; and there are dark and ugly secrets all round, birth and death.
In Laura Blundy (2001) (one I haven't read, so I'm just going on reviews here), she tries to make the Victorian period as realistic and up-to-date as possible, using slang and obscenities and attitudes from today in the (justified) belief that the people then spoke and behaved that way but were not so recorded by the novelists. Laura Blundy is an heiress who finds her fortune gone, is wounded, and has her leg amputated. Julie Myerson's constant theme is that all people of all sizes and shapes have love and sexual lives, and Laura Blundy's is as complicated as anyone else's.
Something Might Happen (2003) opens with a murder in a Suffolk seaside town; the story is about the impacts on friends, children, and the town. There are once more infidelities and ghosts and tragedies.
The detailed, messy mechanics of pregnancy, birth, afterbirth, and child rearing: the sordid, uncertain lies we tell partners when we don't know how we feel and we don't know whether we want to be with them: and ghosts and suicide and betrayal: these are Myerson's themes. But so are making Lego spaceships for your kids, being a bit scared to go to the dentist, painting your toenails a more sexy colour, debating whether to tell your little children white lies, looking around and observing other people in a restaurant, having flashbacks from childhood with a rather nasty old aunt whose home furnishings nevertheless have tremendous nostalgic impact... Julie Myerson is a tender, believable, prosaic poet of a columnist and of a novelist.
She's very, very pretty, with big cow eyes and a winsome snub nose, and on the occasion I saw her live, in a little bookshop in Kentish Town (in north London) to read from her works and answer questions, she had brilliant red hair, obviously a dye job to make herself feel good, and her eyes were piercing and her smile natural. For all the ghosts, death, abuse, unlove, she seems a very nice person and a good mother; and an inspiring and beautiful writer.