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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Wednesday's Writer - Jan Warburton

A Face to Die For by Jan Warburton

I feel rather ashamed about the length of time it's taken me to get to this particular book, when it has been high on my list of 'to be read' for several months. In fact, I was already engrossed in it following my initial 'look inside' and knew I was going to enjoy it even before I downloaded it.  And, of course, I did enjoy it - from start to finish.  The intricate plotting and close attention to social and historical detail meant that once started, I could hardly bear to put it down and often sat up late into the night reading it.  

To summarise very briefly, the novel follows the life of Annabel Spencer, an aspiring fashion designer and her gradual rise to fame and fortune in the 1960s.  Her life is interwoven with that of Kate, an attractive fellow-student who models her designs at college and whose career as a top model is subsequently launched.  Over the ensuing years Annabel and Kate's lives continually criss-cross and an intriguing friendship ensues.

I can perfectly see why anyone who 'seized the day' during those so-called Swinging Sixties would love this nostalgia trip.  This fascinating glimpse into a world of which all young girls of that time could only dream, kept me totally captivated.  Very well done to the author for capturing the era so beautifully and evocatively - this novel reads like a valuable (and very interesting) piece of social history.  Jan Warburton is a gifted and knowledgeable writer and I know I will be reading more of her work.

The main character, Annabel was very interesting but I found her self-absorption and amorality a little unattractive.  Maybe that was a symptom of the times, but it made her rather brittle and unlikeable - not that it in any way spoiled my enjoyment of the story, I hasten to add!  Annabel was capable of showing great kindness to certain people (Kate and Lynda among many) but her generosity was invariably motivated by self-interest and I found myself wishing for her to receive her comeuppance at the end - though I won't say if she did or not!  The realistic 'warts and all' presentation was extremely well done.  Kate, on the other hand, was very sympathetically drawn and I found her complex and fascinating.  I couldn't wait to find out more about her and her inner conflicts and felt a great empathy for her.  Despite the 60s setting, Kate's struggle is very contemporary and believable in the tough world of fashion. I'm tempted to give examples but am afraid of creating spoilers, which I would never dream of doing purposely.  I heartily recommend this book and hope many people will read it and decide for themselves about Annabel and Kate.

The rich enjoyment reading this story gave me makes it worthy of top marks, but my reading experience was just slightly marred by some poor editing.  Such a great story really deserves to be fault-free but the punctuation and grammatical errors grated slightly.  I thought some of the scenes could also have used a bit more spark and passion. However, for anyone interested in high society London life during that fascinating era, or just looking for a thoroughly engrossing read, I guarantee you will enjoy A Faceto Die For and I'm awarding it 4.5 cute cats.

As a postscript, I'd like to add that since finishing this novel, I've found myself thinking about it quite a lot.  It's the sort of story I'd love to have in print form to be able to dip into and re-read passages, if not the entire story again (I haven't quite got the hang of doing that on my Kindle!).  I wish I'd made it last longer - but, great news, I've just heard there's a sequel due out this month. Guess who'll be downloading that on the day it's released?!

The Blurb:

Pure nostalgia: London in the “swinging sixties” – Struck by a beautiful girl’s face in an award winning photograph, fashion student, Annabel Spencer, chooses the girl, Katherine, to model her gowns in her art college’s final year fashion show. It tells how this brief meeting with the girl becomes pivotal to Annabel’s eventual success and how these two women’s careers and love lives become uncannily and fatally entwined. An intriguing and truly fascinating love story hampered by loose morals, drug taking and emotional conflict, at a time when anything risqué goes, and frequently does! The storyline reveals the scandal and glamour of a most decadent and revolutionary period in modern history.

About Jan Warburton:

Trained in fashion design at Ealing Art School, Jan first began working for the House of Worth in Mayfair, London in 1958. She then moved on to wholesale fashion as the designer’s assistant. Marriage to an army officer in 1961 took her to Germany for three years. Later, back in civilian life they moved to Singapore; “another amazing experience”, she says, which has proved valuable ‘grist’ to her writing ‘mill’.

After a painful divorce she survived 6 years with two kiddies as a one parent family - a tough period, from which she has drawn in her fiction writing. After managing a fashion boutique in Wakefield for 2 years, her last position for several years was sales rep for top designer spectacle frame company, Oliver Goldsmith, until redundancy finally allowed her to pursue her writing ambition.

She has a daughter Jayne, son Justin, and two granddaughters Abby and Alexia.
Now happily married to Mark for 32 years, they live in a converted barn in rural Yorkshire.

In the past she has sold various articles and short stories to UK magazines, but longer book length fiction has been her main interest for many years.

In December 2009 she was commissioned to ghost write a successful autobiography for black American soul singer/songwriter, Tommy Hunt; ONLY HUMAN, published by Bank House Books. (For further info visit: )

JOANNA (a spin off sequel to A Face to Die For) will be her third novel, and is due for release on Kindle later in November 2012.
Her previous novels:
All are available on Kindle.

Please visit her blog:


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great read!

Jenny Twist said...

Great review of what sounds like an excellent book! I like the ones that keep you thinking about them afterwards. Lyn, the secret of 'Kindle-dipping' is to try to think of a key word or phrase near the bit you're looking for and search for that

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

I am delighted we have discovered each others blogs, I am definitely going to be following and adding your blog to my author blog roll.

Jan Warburton is not an author I am familiar with, but this does sound like a fun read. Another one for the wishlist maybe, so many books and so little time!

ManicScribbler said...

Anonymous, I think you'll enjoy it.

ManicScribbler said...

Thanks, Jenny - it is a good story - it's very evocative of the times and I suspect took a lot of careful research. I'm looking forward to the sequel.

Thanks for the revealing the Kindle secrets to me. I should experiment more with technology.

ManicScribbler said...

Thank you for dropping by, LindyLouMac - it's a pleasure to see you here.

You may come across Jan Warburton on the new Facebook group as she is a member.

Ken Holdsworth said...

For those of us prepared to own up to remembering the 'Swinging Sixties', Jan Warburton's new book is a nostalgic treat. I was there. That was me, buzzing through London's West End on my Lambretta scooter, waving to the doe-eyed, long-legged girls in their mini skirts. Dare I say it, Jan must have been there too as she has painted those heady days so perfectly. In the story, which has more twists than a length of the finest Macclesfield silk thread, we follow her heroine, Annabel Spencer, through the fashion business [and does Jan know the fashion business!]from being a junior designer in a famous house of haute couture to running her own boutique at the height of the fashion revolution - and meet her many lovers along the way![there was also another revolution at that time, a sexual one!]. Having said that, Jan's story is a cleverly woven tale of two girls who start from the same College of Art and Design, Annabel, the fashion designer, and Katherine, the fashion model [who has 'The Face To Die For'] and how, over the years, their lives intertwine. To say more would spoil your enjoyment, for this is an extremmly well plotted story, full of the most varied but totally believable characters.
And in the words of Janice Nicholls, the teenage judge with the Birmingham accent on the hit TV programme of the day,'Juke Box Jury', words which were to become a catch phrase and were even made into a popular song recorded on the Decca label: "Oi'll give it foive".

Jan Warburton said...

Would just like to make a brief mention that I have done some further editing to A FACE TO DIE FOR since Lyn must've downloaded this novel. So hopefully it's much improved on this score.

ManicScribbler said...

Thanks for dropping by and providing another trip down Memory Lane with your excellent review, Ken.

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