There are two sides to every story.
Two women journalists - one old, one young, one a veteran war correspondent, the other a writer of celebrity gossip - meet for the first time. It is January 1997, the dying days of John Major's government, and newspapers, fighting for a dwindling readership, are plunging downmarket amid wild rumours that the internet is about to change the world for ever. Honor Tait (b. 1917), one of the most renowned journalists of her era, is haunted by her past; Tamara Sim (b. 1970), who compiles lists of what's in and what's out for Psst!, the weekend entertainment supplement of The Monitor, is struggling to secure her future, at any cost, in an increasingly precarious industry. When Sim is sent to interview Tait, their mutual incomprehension generates a rich seam of dark comedy. But when their different worlds finally collide, the consequences are devastating.
McAfee's trenchant first novel is part satire, part portrait of an era poised unknowingly on the brink of a technological revolution. New Labour is about to take over, newspapers are increasingly obsessed by the private lives of popstars, models and footballers, and Honor Tait and her kind are an endangered species. But is Tait really such a beacon of truth and integrity? And, as this darkly witty novel asks, is compassion the first casualty in the search for a good story?
“McAfee skewers the Fourth Estate with an insider’s insight, cutting wit and razor-sharp writing.” — Alison McCulloch, The New York Times Book Review
“Sparkles with tabloid bravura . . . a dark hyper-comedy.” — Examiner.com
“Spirited . . . [McAfee] writes with poise and polish, using her reportorial eye to create a fictional world that feels like a fun-house mirror of journalism from the late ‘90s . . . [that] could not be more timely. . . . McAfee manages to fuse satire and observation together in a potent brew. In doing so, she creates a blackly comic, Waugh-esque portrait of a newspaper . . . peopled with hacks, has-beens, poseurs and some genuine reporters, rabidly ambitious youngsters and weary old-timers, pretentious literary types and gutter-minded twits.” — Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“McAfee . . . highlights the slide of media reporting from serious to scandalous as she crafts a story that catches journalism on the cusp of the electronic age.” — Library Journal
“McAfee’s assured grasp of the journalistic milieu . . . skillfully pillories the journalists’ anxieties about the coming ‘digital dystopia.’” — The New Yorker
“Enjoyable to read . . . a larkish spirit of farce [and] wicked fun . . . dances the story along.” — Shelf Awareness
“An acid satire of London newspaperdom . . . spiky, vivid, and almost pathologically clever.” — Entertainment Weekly
“A sharp, intelligent novel about ‘old’ journalism, ‘new’ journalism and the moral gap between the two . . . McAfee writes with sparkling intelligence and raises serious issues about the relationship between reporting and truth.” — Kirkus (starred review)
“A dark, sparkly gem of a book: smart, knowing, funny, tragic: Miss Havisham meets Sex and the City. I don’t know how Annalena McAfee pulled off such a balancing act, but I very much hope she goes on writing novels of this quality. A stunner.” — Christopher Buckley
“A witty and entertaining debut about two very different worlds of journalism.” — Alex Clark, The Guardian