Author(s): Annalena McAfee
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 increasingly 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 actresses, models and footballers, and the values of Honor Tait and her kind are being consigned to the dustbin of history. But is Tait really such a beacon of truth and integrity? Perhaps humanity ends up a casualty in the quest for objectivity. There are two sides to every story and, as this witty novel suggests, there is no escape from that most disabling and universal flaw – vanity.
Annalena McAfee worked in newspapers for more than three decades. She was Arts and Literary Editor of the Financial Times and founded the Guardian Review, which she edited for six years.