‘Pages and Co,’ has to be one of my most anticipated debuts of the year, it seems an age since I first heard a whisper about this book on Twitter and I felt instantly that it would be a book that I would absolutely adore and I was absolutely right. This is the book my 9 year old self would have slept with under my pillow and hugged to myself tightly because it is a booklover’s dream. Like Tilly in the story I was a child that would literally lock myself away and lose myself in the story, except sadly I didn’t have the magical gift that she has, the ability to be a book wanderer. For Tilly books have taken her on the most amazing adventures that she couldn’t possibly dream of in real life. She has raced across rooftops in Paris, seen the Northern Lights and learned to fly a broomstick, all through the wonder of the pages she’s read.
Anna’s glorious writing conjures up the most magnificent bookshop in the form of ‘Pages and Co,’ a virtual rabbit warren filled with hidden corners, mounds of books and hidden secrets lurking behind every corner. Since the disappearance of her mother, Tilly has lived in the bookshop with her grandparents, where she has found comfort amongst the pages of her favourite books. She is only mildly intrigued by the strange people she sees her grandparents talking to about matters such as being snubbed at a ball and complex cases, never realising that she’s not meant to see them. But she is however unnerved by the mysterious Enoch Chalk who appears to turn up in the most unexpected of places taking an unusual interest in her and watching very closely. When she discovers her special ability it changes her life forever and she soon realises this could hold the key to finding out what really happened to her mother. Spellbinding and truly magical, I was totally enchanted by the world that Anna has created and can’t wait to go wandering with Tilly again.
I am delighted to welcome Anna to the blog today as part of the blog tour with a special guest post on her favourite grandparents in books.
Top Five Fictional Grandparents – Anna James
My heroine Tilly lives with her grandparents; her father died before she was born and her mother went missing shortly afterwards. She has an incredibly close relationship with Archie and Elsie, and the bookshop they live in and own, and that forms the heart of the book.
Growing up I was incredibly lucky to be close to both of my sets of grandparents and we alternated Christmasses with them for many years. My grandparents (Trevor and Jo, and Patrick and Audrey) were the most fun, supportive and wonderful grandparents, and I used a little bit of all of them to create Tilly’s. Here are some of my other favourite fictional grandparents.
1. Grandmother in The Witches by Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl creates brilliant grandparents whether they are awful like in George’s Marvellous Medicine or wonderful like those that feature on this list. At the top has to be the unnamed Norwegian grandmother of the also unnamed hero of The Witches. She’s a retired witch hunter (who lost one of her thumbs to a witch), who tells her grandson how to recognise and protect himself, she always believes him, she looks after him when he is turned into a mouse (spoilers, sorry) and they end up as a witch hunting team set to track down and rid the world of witches.
2. Grandpa Joe in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Every so slightly more traditional grandparents feature in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; the four of them live in one bed in the family’s tiny home but when Charlie finds a golden ticket for the chocolate factory, Grandpa Joe is determined to go with him. While Grandpa Joe certainly has his flaws (few Dahl characters don’t), his determination to help Charlie find a better life for himself, and his constant loyalty, not to mention his sweet tooth, make him a pretty great grandad.
3. Grandfather in Heidi by Johanna Spyri
In this classic children’s book, orphan Heidi is set to live with her grandfather in the Swiss mountains when her aunt can no longer take care of her. He is a lonely, angry man who initially hates that Heidi has come to live with him, but her warmth and kindness towards him and their neighbours gradually wins him over. It’s a book full of grandparents, as Heidi also learns to read so she can help her friend Peter’s blind grandmother. While the book tends towards the religious, and the moralising for a modern appetites, the central story of Heidi and her grandfather is an incredibly touching one.
4. Red Riding Hood’s Grandma
Now this one depends on which version of the story you read as Grandma’s role varies a lot. All fairy tales have evolved and have different version, but this is one of my favourite fairy tales because the changes and evolutions make a big impact on how you read the story. Red Riding Hood is predictably the one that changes most, but my favourite version is a Brothers Grimm story where Grandma and Red don’t let in a wolf, but instead lure him down their chimney with the smell of cooking sausages, straight into a cauldron of water on the fire…
5. Grandpa in The Princess Bride
This is a little bit of a cheat as the grandfather character is only in the film version of this, not William Golding’s original book, but it is a riff on Golding’s framing to make it work for screen. In the book supposedly Golding is narrating to us, the readers, a story he heard from someone else, and in the film the grandfather takes on this narrator role. I love stories within stories, books about books, narrators who speak directly to the reader, and narrators who seem to be omniscient but end up being a character, and anything along those lines, and Grandpa/the narrator in The Princess Bride is one of my favourites.
Thank you Anna for this really interesting guest post, all brilliant choices.
Anna James is a writer and journalist living in London who was Book News Editor at The Bookseller magazine and was Literary Editor of Elle UK. Anna has also written for The Pool, The LA Times, The Financial Times and The Independent, as well as making bookish YouTube videos as A Case For Books. She hosts literary events and panels and is the co-founder and host of the YA Salon in London. Anna was shortlisted for the Kim Scott Walwyn Award for Women in Publishing in 2015, and the London Book Fair Trailblazers Award in 2016.
Thank you to Sam at Harper Collins for sending me a copy of this stunning book and for inviting me to part of the blog tour. ‘Pages and Co: Tilly and the Book Wanderers,’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.