Shoreditch Walk


I went on a walk with Ken Titmuss, aka Old Map Man, around Shoreditch in east London. Old Map Man’s walks come highly recommended and I was especially interested in the Shoreditch one because in my novel The Painted Bridge, the heroine Anna Palmer spends her brief married life there. Reverend Vincent […]



I made a short trip to New York recently to meet my US publishers, Scribner – an imprint of Simon & Schuster. It was a pleasure to meet my US editor, Alexis, and her great colleagues.                   We talked about the plans […]

In New York – A Picture Post

Lower East Side

Happily, I am in New York for three and a half days! Yesterday I went to the Tenement Museum on Orchard Street, in the Lower East Side. The museum centres around a mid 19-c tenement building that once contained 22 apartments. Each typically had three rooms; a tiny bedroom, even […]

Essie Fox – The Virtual Victorian

Essie Fox

Essie Fox’s The Somnambulist is an atmospheric and richly-imagined Gothic novel set in London in the late 1800s. The story revolves around the lives of three women – 17-year-old Phoebe Turner, her salvationist mother Maud Turner and her adored Aunt Cissy, a singer. When, following a visit to Wilton’s Music […]

Before I pronounce her mad…

    We take medical records for granted now but in the 18th century they were the exception rather than the rule. John Monro, then Bethlem physician superintendent, began in his journal of 1766 to record details of some of his private patients – including the case of Flora, a slave […]

Seeing in the Round

Felix Nadar

I liked seeing this set of twelve self-portraits by the French photographer Felix Nadar, at the Degas exhibition at the RA. Nadar was a man of many parts – he’d been a cartoonist, a novelist and a champion of hot air balloons before he took up photography. In 1865, he […]

What Lies Beneath

Old Vic Tunnels

The tunnels underneath Waterloo station are one hundred and sixty years old. High, vaulted spaces, smelling strongly of damp and shaken periodically by the passage of trains overhead, they make a brilliant setting for the exhibition curated by Stuart Semple, in support of mental health charity Mind. The exhibition is […]

Life and Letters

Maggie Benson

Both my first novel, The Painted Bridge, and the one I’m working on now, Magic for the Living, are set in the 1800s. This means, among other things, much research. I was amazed to find when I embarked on the reading for the first book that so many out-of-copyright texts are […]

Where We Were


I suppose many people today are remembering where they were when they heard about the first plane hitting the twin towers. I was in the office I shared just off Oxford Street with three other journalists. One, a New Yorker living in London, was in a state of extreme shock. […]