The Independent London Newspaper

 

'SOPHISTICATED CHICK LIT': How Vanessa Greene’s debut novel has caught the zeitgeist

The Vintage Teacup Club author Vanessa Greene. Picture by Giulia Diomampo

Published: 11 October, 2012
by RICHARD OSLEY

IT’S not without a certain irony that a debut novel that romances everything vintage, flirts with bijou shops  and antique markets, is shooting straight into the big-sale possibilities of supermarket shelves.

Vanessa Greene could have hardly demanded that her The Vintage Teacup Club could only be sold in independent book shops and under the counter at north London’s cake and coffee shops.

Instead, you will see this slice of “sophisticated chick lit” staring at you on the way to the checkout.

She already has a publishing deal ready for the United States and her story inviting us into the up and down lives of three women united by a chance meeting all chasing a vintage teaset at a car boot sale can easily be imagined as a television drama or film.

All this – without having to write something like Fifty Shades Of Grey to get noticed.

“I tried reading that but I couldn’t relate to the characters. I wanted to write something nice –and something that women from 20 to 60 could relate to,” says Vanessa, who lives on the fringe where the north of Islington hits Crouch End with its easy, lazy cappuccino stops that inspire a part of the book. I wanted to tie into the trend for nostalgia, the popularity for vintage that you could see coming in ahead of the Jubilee over the last three years – a feeling of community,” she says.

“There is a bit of glamour to the characters, but they are hopefully people that people can relate to, like a partner losing their job in the recession.”

I called her the “female Nick Hornby” (on the crass assumption that a lot of people think High Fidelity is a Crouch Endy book for blokes, where LPs are the narrative glue rather than vintage tea-sets). But she would prefer comparisons, if you have to play the write-a-like game, to Jenny Colgan or Elizabeth Noble.

Maybe one of the reasons she has been been rewarded is that she has done her time seeing what works and what does while working as a book editor at a publishers, first Virago, then Little Brown.

Hundreds – thousands – of manuscripts have crossed her desk even though she is only in her early 30s. You can imagine the varying quality would inspire her to want to do it right.

“I was always very conscien­tious and read as much as I could,” she said.

“But some send in three chapters and you know instantly that it’s not going to work.

“They’d send in mad science fiction to Virago and clearly wouldn’t know what kind of books we were pub­lish­ing.
A tip for all writers would be to at least know who you are pitch­ing to.”

• The Vin­tage Teacup Club. By Vanessa Greene. Little Brown, £6.99.

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