|Helen Lederer at The Books That Built Me, with huge thanks to Tatler, Prestat chocolate, The Club at Cafe Royal and to Champagne Bollinger|
I feel as if I've known Helen Lederer all my life. Possibly, that sense of intimacy is driven by her innate friendliness, coupled with exceptional warm-heartedness and generosity of spirit - five minutes in her company and it's as if the sun has come out on a cloudy day and is shining just for you. But it's also that, since before I was at university, there she was making me laugh, firstly at the Comedy Store, where she was part of the breakthrough group of women comedians back in the eighties, and in the Young Ones, and subsequently in Bottom and French and Saunders, all five series of Ab Fab and many, many more programmes after that.
Helen has been a consistent presence on screen and on stage, and has only now published her first novel, Losing It, shortlisted for the Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman Prize for Comic Fiction this year.
Losing It tells the story of Milly who, rather down on her luck, and pursued by bills and bailiffs, agrees to front a miracle weight-loss programme with her progress followed ounce by ounce in the magazine. The fee for the job is very attractive - the only snag is that it only pays out if she gets the weight off. It's extremely readable and an absolute hoot, and, encouraged by the success of her first, Helen has nailed the first three chapters of a second novel, which I can't wait to read. I know it will only confirm how deftly her quick, self-deprecating wit has translated from stage to page.
I'm going to write a little more about each of the books Helen Lederer chose for her Books That Built Me in a future post, because I think they say something insightful and intriguing about her as a writer, but in the meantime, here are the books we discussed over a glass of Bollinger at the Club at Cafe Royal
1. Enid Blyton, First Term at Malory Towers
2. CP Snow, The Conscience of the Rich
3. John Fowles, The Magus
4. Muriel Spark, The Girls of Slender Means
5. Philip Roth, Portnoy's Complaint
6. David Nicholls, Starter for Ten
7. Emma Henderson, Grace Williams Says it Loud