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Sunday, 6 August 2017


'THE' is a very short  word - one we use  a myriad times every day. So why has it  been causing excitement in the world of fiction?

Just in case you hadn't noticed, this three- letter word heads some of the most successful book titles of 2017. Of the top paperback fiction bestsellers listed in Saturday's Times newspaper six out of the ten  titles follow the trend. Just look at the list:

At number one, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead is followed by Jane Harper's The Dry. At five is The Power by Naomi Alderman, at six The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena followed by John Grisham's The Whistler at number seven. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, (now a television series) is number eight and Michelle Frances' The Girlfriend comes in at number nine.

So while many experts still believe that you should choose a book by its cover, these days it seems to be the title that's pulling in the readers. And the more a new-release resembles the title of a current best seller, the more  likely it is to attract the reader's attention.

If you watched The Little House on the Prairie as a child, you won't be surprised to know that 'house' is now an in-word for book titles. One of the most popular  is The House on the Hill (I found several different novels with this same title on Amazon) along with Kate Morton's The House at Riverton. Finally, the word 'girl' is also very prevalent as in the bestsellers Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. A throwback, maybe, to Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?

Book titles, despite common belief, are not subject to copyright which explains why we sometimes come across two authors publishing different novels with the same title at the same time. Take, for example,Julie Cohen and Jane Green, both successful authors with recent novels entitled Falling.

But is success just about sales? It's not unknown for a Booker Prize winner to have far fewer sales than many commercial  fiction authors today, though not in the case of  prolific writer Julian Barnes whose 2011 novel The Sense of an Ending had me riveted from start to finish. Clearly he was ahead of the trend.

I wonder what the title of the next number one bestseller might be? The Daughter of The Girl in the House on the Hill above the Hidden Railway Train?

You never know. It might just catch on

The Sense of an Ending

Monday, 17 July 2017

Doctors wanted to switch off our daughter's life support - but somehow she survived. What's next for Charlie Gard?

The doctor's prognosis was grave:We may have to switch off your daughter's life support. 
     'No,' I shouted, leaping to my feet as  as the horror of those words hit home. 'You make her sound like a washing machine.'

     Twenty-five-year-old Amy had contracted E.coli 0157 - a deadly form of  food poisoning  - and her vital organs were  shutting down. She'd had an epileptic fit, her lungs were filling with water, her kidneys had failed and her contaminated blood was being regularly replaced.

     Fifteen years later, as the world waits to hear the fate of little Charlie Gard, I can still recall that heart-stopping moment when the doctor seemed to give up on our daughter's life.  I'm not proud of my reaction, for which I later apologised, but it's the reason why I agree with Charlie's anguished parents at a time when  doctors believe their child should be allowed to 'die with dignity.'

     These days it's easier for me to be impartial. While Great Ormond Street Hospital are being fiercely criticised for their role in the baby's future, I find myself thinking that the doctors 'are only doing their job.' But I also believe that all professionals, however experienced in their chosen field, can sometimes be wrong.

     Even if Amy did survive, her father and I were told, she would be 'a vegetable' with no quality of life at all. But then a miracle happened. She regained consciousness, her lungs improved and eventually she was taken off the ventilator.  Unable to walk or talk, however, she had to learn these skills all over again.

     I can't even begin to imagine how ill baby Charlie really is, or what the future holds for a child with  this type of mitochondrial disease. Maybe it would have been better if the child had died soon after birth thereby releasing the parents from the unimaginable dilemma they face now.

      All I know is that the skill of the NHS doctors saved Amy's life. Today she is happily married and holds down a demanding job.  Surely Charlie, and his heartbroken parents, deserve the same chance?

Amy featured in Woman magazine soon after her miraculous recovery.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Win a signed copy of Baggy Pants and Bootees

Would you like to win a signed paperback copy of Baggy Pants and Bootees?   Then why not go over to my facebook page  Marilyn Chapman Author , like the page and tell me who you would like the book for: you,  a friend, or maybe a  family member who needs cheering up?

Go on - it could make someone's day!

Baggy Pants and Bootees at  Plackitt and Booth Booksellers, Lytham, Lancashire
where my debut novel was launched in 2014
The book was very lucky to be in such esteemed company....

NB - The competition ends at midnight on Tuesday July 4 - good luck!

Saturday, 24 June 2017

The Spirit that Saved a Nation

JUST HOURS after  a young woman lost her home and possessions in London's Grenfell Tower tragedy, she arrived at the emergency help centre to see if someone could find her a new skirt. Why?
Because she needed to get to her job as a checkout assistant in the local supermarket. My first reaction was  disbelief.  Not only is it a great example of  the British 'stiff upper lip,' but also a sign of  immense  courage in the face of  tragedy.

It reminds me of what my Guernsey grandparents used to call the 'War Spirit.' When I was a young child, they told me how an indestructible  spirit helped the islanders endure five long years of German Occupation. And defiant they were - right to the end. Similarly, it seems, the people of London, whatever their colour or creed, have supported each other on a scale not seen for a long time in this country.

After years as a newspaper journalist I wake up these days in fear of the front page news. Perhaps it's time all of us stood together? Let the majority hold hands against the cruel minority and say  We Will Not Be Moved.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Portugese Prime Minister left Holding the Baby

As a former journalist  I relish unusual stories in newspapers and this one in The Times  takes some beating. When the Portugese government granted civil servants and teachers a day off to celebrate the Pope's visit recently, journalist Joao Miguel Taveres was very  unhappy.  Both he and his wife had to work on the day of the visit, so he asked the prime minister to 'babysit' his own four children.

 In an open letter  in Publico newspaper the right-wing columnist said: Taking into consideration the sympathy with which your Excellency granted public officials a day off so they could appreciate the circulation of the Popemobile, I am presented with a problem.  My children attend public schools. I will have to work while my children will not take classes.'

The journalist whose wife,  a doctor,  was on call on that day added: The solution seems to me that while I work, you take care of the kids.'

Shortly afterwards Mr Taveres received a message from the prime minister agreeing to look after his two sons and two daughters, aged between four and thirteen.  The prime minister watched television with the children at  his official residence, the Sao Bento Palace, before giving them lunch and a tour of the palace.

After lunch he had to hand them back to their father as, - you guessed it - he needed to welcome the Pope!

Tuesday, 9 May 2017


In 1940 my father, Harold Brown, was evacuated from Guernsey Grammar School to Oldham Hulme Grammar School in Lancashire, England, at the age of fourteen. When he arrived back on the island in 1945 he was just nineteen years old and married to my mother. His brother, David, died of meningitis and never came home.

In memory of my uncle, David Richard Brown
The Guernsey boy who never came home

Sunday, 30 April 2017


Occupying Love, inspired by the Guernsey Underground News Service, as featured in the Guernsey Press

The Guernsey Resistance movement, established in 1940, has finally been rewarded with a blue plaque this week in a special ceremony on the island. And no-one is more delighted than the families of the original members, two of whom paid with their lives.

The Guernsey Underground News Service, whose acronym GUNS seems almost reckless now, typifies the strength of spirit of islanders who survived five long years of Occupation by the German Army.

The underground newspaper was the brainchild of Charles Machon, who worked as a linotype operator at the old Guernsey Star (later merged with the Guernsey Press.) He believed that gleaning good  news from illegal radios or hand-made  crystal sets would boost the morale those who had become prisoners on their own island. And he was right.

Unveiled by the Bailiff Sir Richard Collas the plaque was placed outside the Star's old offices in the town's Bordage. 'Lots of memories are so traumatic for people that they are never able to tell their stories,' he said.

As a Guernsey girl now living in Britain, I am thrilled to see members of the resistance given a lasting memorial after so many years.  My own father was evacuated from Guernsey to Oldham in 1940 and later worked as a reporter on the Star.

The story of the island's resistance movement was the inspiration for my novel Occupying Love, featured last year in the Guernsey Press and available on e-book  here. The fictional Guernsey Independent News Association (GINA) is not based on real people but a tribute to everyone who lived, and died, through that time.

Liberation Day will be celebrated on the island on May 9, 2017

Friday, 14 April 2017


If the sun doesn't shine on you this EASTER  weekend, or you can't get away, pour yourself a cup of tea or a glass of wine, and read a novel. Reading can take you anywhere you want to be, so settle down and enjoy the trip.
And remember -  it even rains in Venice!

Nice, France

Guernsey, Channel Islands

Lake Garda, Italy

Lake Garda, Italy

Venice in the rain

Red Arrows in the Guernsey sky

Have tea, will  travel

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Jeepers, Creepers, where'd ya get that smile?

Sam Marlowe reviews The Wipers Times

I never really did get the hang of French, despite being born just a whisper away from the Normandy Coast.  I can read it reasonably well, and understand spoken French as long as it is delivered at a moderate pace, but my accent? C'est terrible!

So I had to smile this week at the news that the wonderful play, The Wipers Times, is currently receiving good reviews in the West End. The ability to 'keep on smiling'  is the stuff that saved Great Britain in the First World War, and right now, across the globe, it seems in very short supply.

Wipers, in case you didn't know, was how the British soldiers pronounced Ypres, the Belgian town where in 1916,  a Division of the Sherwood Foresters discovered an old printing press.  Writing in The Times, critic Sam Marlowe tells us how Captain Fred Roberts and Lieutenant Jack Pearson teamed up with their sergeant, a printer by trade, to produce a newspaper offering both 'solace and send-up' to the men in the trenches.

'It's... a bright, bouncy comic strip of a show,'  says Marlowe, ' that raises a sincere salute to the soldiers for whom laughter was a vital psychological defence against the horrors of the conflict, and the onslaught of bombs, guns and gas.'

And even - perhaps especially  at its silliest,' he adds, ' the play has a respect for its subject matter that is deadly serious and decidedly affecting.'

It's no surprise then that The Wipers Times was the subject of a BBC 'docudrama' by satirist and Private Eye editor Ian Hislop and cartoonist Nick Newman  back in 2013.  The extended stage version directed by Caroline Leslie is at the Arts Theatre, WC2 until May 13.