Let’s hear it for the girls…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs a child, I was never what was (derogatorily) termed a “girly girl”, in other words, dressed in pink frills, with an army of Barbies marching absurd-legged across my bedroom floor. Partly by accident: mine was a childhood of inherited clothes and toys, many from the children over the road – male and female. And partly by design: my mother, having gone through the same childhood of hand-me-downs, did not believe in gender-specific toys, or the colour pink (although she then faced a quandary when my brother begged to dress as Cinderella on a daily basis).

And I have often had boy best friends, from the brilliant Aidan, with whom I giggled through four years of adventures at nursery and primary school, before he was whisked away to private school (and less “malign” influences), to my once cross-dressing brother James, who shares my sense of humour, my political convictions, and my Neanderthal hairline.

Picture 23And yet girls have been a constant, if not always in real life, at least in my head. They have been friends I have carried with me throughout my childhood and adulthood. Friends who, at times (in the olden days before mobile phones and computers, when friendships survived by letter alone), have been as real to me as Henny, Boo, Jude, Frosties, Rachel, Karen, Catherine and the rest. These creatures are not figments of my imagination, but the imagination of other women: The impetuous, passionate Cathy in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte; the shy debutante Penny and her dazzling best friend Charlotte in The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice; Daphne du Maurier’s unnamed narrator in Rebecca, living in the shadow of another woman, and the courageous Dona in Frenchman’s Creek, in love with another man; and, most of all, the “consciously naïve” would-be writer Cassandra Mortmain in Dodie Smith’s wonderful I Capture the Castle.

These women, and their creators, like my true friends, are my companions, and my heroines. Women I turn to for their wisdom and comfort and escape, maybe not constantly, but every few years, as I reread their stories, and who I will continue to reread long into the future, as they continue to inspire.

About Joanna Nadin

A former broadcast journalist and special adviser to the prime minister, since leaving politics I’ve written more than 80 books for children and adults, as well as speeches for politicians, and articles for newspapers and magazines like The Guardian, Red and The Amorist. I also lecture in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, and hold a doctorate in young adult literature. I’m a winner of the Fantastic Book Award and the Surrey Book Award, and have been shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, the Booktrust Best Book award and Queen of Teen among others, and twice nominated for the Carnegie Medal, for Everybody Hurts, and for Joe All Alone, which is now a BAFTA-winning and Emmy-nominated BBC TV series. I've also worked with Sir Chris Hoy on the Flying Fergus series and ghost-written Angry Birds under another name. I like London, New York, Essex, tea, cake, Marmite, mint imperials, prom dresses, pubs, that bit in the West Wing where Donna tells Josh she wouldn’t stop for a red light if he was in an accident, junk shops, crisps, Cornwall, St Custard’s, Portuguese custard tarts, political geeks, pin-up swimsuits, the Regency, high heels, horses, old songs, my Grandma’s fur coat, vinyl, liner notes, the smell of old books, the feel of a velveteen monkey, Guinness, quiffs, putting my hand in a bin of chicken feed, the 1950s, burlesque, automata, fiddles, flaneuring, gigs in fields on warm summer nights, Bath, the bath.
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