Title: Woman of the Hour
Author: Jane Lythell
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Publication Date:14 July 2016
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Rating: 4 Stars
Meet Liz Lyon: respected TV producer, stressed-out executive, guilty single mother.
StoryWorld is the nation’s favourite morning show, and producer Liz Lyon wants to keep it that way. Her job is to turn real-life stories into thrilling TV – and keep a lid on the scandals and backbiting that happen off-stage.
But then simmering tensions erupt at the station, trapping Liz in a game of one-upmanship where she doesn’t know the rules. As the power struggle intensifies, can Liz keep her cool and keep her job? Does she even want to?
In this gripping novel of power, rivalry and betrayal, Jane Lythell draws on her experiences of working in the glamorous, pressurised world of live TV.
Thank you to the author, Jane Lythell, for providing me with a review copy of her third novel Woman of the Hour.
Whilst this is the first of Lythell’s novels that I have read, I understand that her earlier two were psychological thrillers and, as such, Woman of the Hour is a step away from her earlier work.
Woman of the Houris a character-led tale of the day-to-day workings inside a TV studio and provides a fascinating insight into the world of daytime TV. The story is told from the perspective of Liz Lyon, respected producer of popular morning TV show StoryWorld. From keeping senior management happy re budgets, stroking the egos of her presenters and her power-crazed boss, dealing with workplace politics, avoiding scandals and hunting down celebrity guests, the pace of life inside the studio is fairly frantic and Liz certainly has her work cut out for her.
Lythell clearly has a lot of experience and insider knowledge of the TV industry and I think this shone through in the story, creating (what I imagine to be) an over-the-top but authentic workplace and an interesting array of characters, including the egocentric on-screen cast and the hardworking behind the scenes production team.
The story has two main settings, the TV studio at London Bridge and Liz’s flat at Chalk Farm. I liked the contrast between the two places and quickly drew a clear picture of them both in my mind, from the large and very public workspace to the little flat that acts as Liz’s haven from the outside world. I note the little touches that Lythell has thrown in to personalise those settings for the reader and I imagine the work studios to be an modern, trendy but impersonal setting whereas I picture her home to be a cosy and inviting space – the interior design-equivalent of comfort food!
Lythell has cleverly provided some intrigue in the form of 3-4 underlying storylines which catch the reader’s attention as they slowly unravel throughout the duration of the book. However, despite those few (and quite serious) plot lines, the story seemed more designed to provide a snapshot into Liz’s life, taking in both the ‘glamorous’ and pressured world of being a TV producer and the trials and tribulations of motherhood.
The story focuses on Liz’s juggling of her professional and family life, from the stresses at work to her worry about her 14 year old daughter Flo. I particularly liked the fairly dramatic contrast between her professional persona and that of her role as single-mother to Flo. During the tube ride from the studio at London Bridge to her home at Chalk Farm, Liz throws off her shoulder-pads (metaphorically speaking) and transforms from a confident business woman to an unconfident single mother, constantly dealing with teenage strops, her own guilt and worry about the welfare of her daughter. She is in need to some reassurance that she is doing a good job of raising her daughter.
Whilst for me the story initially got off to quite a slow start, I found myself quickly absorbed in the story, staying up reading until the early hours of the morning unable to tear myself away. I was gripped by the tale of workplace intrigue, lies and back-stabbing.
A nice extra to the book are the handful of recipes listed at the end. Reference is made throughout the book to Liz’s love of cooking, particularly comfort food, and this ties in nicely with that aspect of the story. I am certainly going to give the flapjack recipe a go.
A second book, BEHIND HER BACK, is on its way on 10 August 2017 and can be pre-ordered now. I am thoroughly looking forward to reading more about Liz Lyon and her entertaining colleagues.
About the Author
I worked as a TV producer for 15 years and my third novel WOMAN OF THE HOUR takes the lid off the TV industry. Behind the glossy exterior of the on-air programme there lurks backstage intrigues, scandal and huge egos in conflict; an insider’s account of the private life of a TV station.
I live in Brighton in the UK and am a sea-lover, star-gazer, film and football fan. After my years in television I moved to the British Film Institute as Deputy Director, did one year as Chief Executive of BAFTA (which was miserable) followed by seven years at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (which was interesting). I now write full time.
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My blog: http://chroniclesofchloegreene.blogspot.co.uk/