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A Couple of Resolutions

The Christmas lights are packed away, the chocolate stash is depleted, and I am glad to be back at my writing desk (formerly known as the dining room table).

Last week, the BBC aired a programme about people who have never seen Star Wars. Since much of the remainder of their air-time over the Christmas season has been dedicated to Dickens, I now have an appalling confession to make: I have never read any Dickens.

Having just finished Susan Hill’s love-letter to literature, Howards End is on the Landing (in which she revisits the contents of her bookshelves), I wonder why. Perhaps it is because I already feel familiar with so many of his characters, from Oliver Twist to Miss Hathaway. I have to admit that, Hardy aside, I have never had a great love of the classics. Susan Hill concludes with a list of the 40 books she cannot live without. Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend appears as number 3, directly after The Bible and The Book of Common Prayer (1662) and immediately before my friend Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge. And so reading some Dickens seems like a manageable new year’s resolution, one that I can stick to. (That, and writing another novel of my own.) I have already located Great Expectations on the book shelf, its jacket cover pristine.

But before that, I must finish the first novel I have chosen to read in 2012: inspirational newcomer Shelley Harris’ recently published Jubilee.  I was delighted to meet Shelley at the Writers’ Workshop October conference, at which she spoke with great enthusiasm about her writing life and securing a two-book publishing deal. So far I have only one argument with it, and that has nothing to do with her writing but with the book cover: cup cakes? In 1977?