Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Spotlight on Jane Davis, author of Small Eden

 A boy with his head in the clouds. A man with a head full of dreams. 

1884. The symptoms of scarlet fever are easily mistaken for teething, as Robert Cooke and his pregnant wife Freya discover at the cost of their two infant sons. Freya immediately isolates for the safety of their unborn child. Cut off from each other, there is no opportunity for husband and wife to teach each other the language of their loss. By the time they meet again, the subject is taboo. But unspoken grief is a dangerous enemy. It bides its time.

A decade later and now a successful businessman, Robert decides to create a pleasure garden in memory of his sons, in the very same place he found refuge as a boy – a disused chalk quarry in Surrey’s Carshalton. But instead of sharing his vision with his wife, he widens the gulf between them by keeping her in the dark. It is another woman who translates his dreams. An obscure yet talented artist called Florence Hoddy, who lives alone with her unmarried brother, painting only what she sees from her window…

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(Stuff you may or may to already know.)

The Beatles, Fool on the Hill

On an October day in 1967 when I was only 10 days old, my uncles Richard and Christopher Taylor were in a recording studio laying down the flute tracks (and quite possibly recorder tracks) for Fool on this Hill. Despite this family legacy, the Beatles were not the soundtrack to my childhood (although we did have a Pinky and Perky Sing the Beatles album in the house). My father was a policeman, and as part of his duties, he had to police Beatles gigs. He was completely put off the band by the hysterical behaviour he witnessed. I always took his stories with a  pinch of salt until I read an interview with Bob Geldof in Q magazine, who was there and confirmed it was all true! And so I was that girl at guide camp who couldn’t join in the Beatles singalongs around the campfire because she didn’t know the lyrics. Fast forward thirty years, and I met my partner who hails from Liverpool, whose father has memories of seeing the Beatles play in the Cavern during his lunchtimes from work, and whose sister is an official Beatles guide (and the only tour guide in the UK to have a Masters Degree in The Beatles!) By the time I went to Paul McCartney’s gig at Anfield in 2009, rest assured, I knew all the lyrics!

Fame and Price, Sergeant Jobsworth

Another story from my dad’s days as a policeman. In 1970/71, my father arrested a young man for a parking offence. The young man turned out to be Georgie Fame, then something of a heartthrob. My dad’s version of the story was that the young man said to him, ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ and my Dad told him that he hadn’t a clue. In Georgie Fame’s version of the story, my dad told him that he’d seen him on television and knew exactly who he was. This would have been highly unlikely, because my father had absolutely no interest in modern music. He was a Vivaldi man. Either way, George Fame took his revenge by writing the song, Sergeant Jobsworth, released as a B side in 1971. 

Jane Davis

My mother played the recorder part in the famous Finger of Fudge advert. From childhood, she had performed and recorded music as part of the Taylor Recorder Consort with her father and brothers, Richard and Christopher. Whilst they went on to become flautists, she specialised in Tudor music and can be heard on film soundtracks such as the 1969 film Anne of a Thousand Days, which featured Richard Burton as Henry VIII. My mother would really rather prefer that I didn’t refer to the Finger of Fudge advert as an example of her work, but it was a 70’s classic!

Young Jane Davis

I once sang There are Fairies at the Bottom of our Garden on stage at the Royal Albert Hall. My parents sent me to private singing lessons to prepare for this great honour, but I had awful stage fright and could barely get the words out. 

Jane Davis
Dorset 2011

In 2008, I won the Daily Mail First Novel Award with my second novel. Nothing in the rules referred to a first novel, just an unpublished novel. Please don’t tell! 

Jane Davis


Hailed by The Bookseller as ‘One to Watch,’ Jane Davis writes thought-provoking literary page-turners.

She spent her twenties and the first half of her thirties chasing promotions in the business world but, frustrated by the lack of a creative outlet, she turned to writing.

Her first novel, 'Half-Truths and White Lies', won a national award established with the aim of finding the next Joanne Harris. Further recognition followed in 2016 with 'An Unknown Woman' being named Self-Published Book of the Year by Writing Magazine/the David St John Thomas Charitable Trust, as well as being shortlisted in the IAN Awards, and in 2019 with 'Smash all the Windows' winning the inaugural Selfies Book Award. Her novel, 'At the Stroke of Nine O’Clock' was featured by The Lady Magazine as one of their favourite books set in the 1950s, selected as a Historical Novel Society Editor's Choice, and shortlisted for the Selfies Book Awards 2021.

Interested in how people behave under pressure, Jane introduces her characters when they are in highly volatile situations, and then, in her words, she throws them to the lions. The themes she explores are diverse, ranging from pioneering female photographers to relatives seeking justice for the victims of a fictional disaster.

Jane Davis lives in Carshalton, Surrey, in what was originally the ticket office for a Victorian pleasure garden, known locally as ‘the gingerbread house.’ Her house frequently features in her fiction. In fact, she burnt it to the ground in the opening chapter of 'An Unknown Woman'. In her latest release, Small Eden, she asks the question of why one man would choose to open a pleasure garden at a time when so many others were facing bankruptcy?

When she isn’t writing, you may spot Jane disappearing up the side of a mountain with a camera in hand.

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