Holly Bourne's most recent novel came out this month and I only wish that I had read it sooner! I finished it this afternoon, and managed it in one sitting.
Audrey is over romance. Since her parents' relationship imploded her mother's been catatonic, so she takes a cinema job to get out of the house. But there she meets wannabe film-maker Harry. Nobody expects Audrey and Harry to fall in love as hard and fast as they do. But that doesn't mean things are easy. Because real love isn't like the movies...
The greatest love story ever told doesn't feature kissing in the snow or racing to airports. It features pain and confusion and hope and wonder and a ban on cheesy clichés. Oh, and zombies... YA star Holly Bourne tackles real love in this hugely funny and poignant novel (goodreads).
The evening began with a series discussion of whether or not nuns had bank accounts. Bourne had witnessed a nun paying, that morning, to use the toilets at the train station. Did nuns have pockets? Who knows but it made the audience laugh!
With the new book being about Romantic Comedies, it seemed only appropriate for Witten to begin with a discussion surrounding Bourne's relationship with the genre! She talked about the fact that romantic comedies are an acceptable thing to watch on a Sunday, when you're in your pyjamas. After all, she commented, you can't be a feminist all of the time? We all laughed and I couldn't agree more. I think that the romantic comedy is very closely linked to the idea of them being a guilty pleasure. I think there is a tendency to judge those that admit to linking romantic comedies, and they're definetly considered a gender specific genre. I had just never really considered the aspect that Bourne referred to; the notion of romance films as abusive.
Holly Bourne commented that females fulfil roles, especially with regard to the watching of romance films! I know I've definetly watched rom-coms and felt a tiny bit depressed because I'm not Mila Kunis, or haven't got Kate Hudson's (albeit delayed) good luck with men! However, Bourne regards Katherine Heigl as the opposite to the media constructed cool girl. I suppose that's right, but Heigl's busy life in 27 Dresses is something I enjoy watching. It gave me hope. I wish I didn't get sucked in to the trap of Hollywood and romantic comedies. Both Witten and Bourne briefly mentioned that 500 Days of Summer is 'the perfect deconstruction of the rom-com'. And this got me thinking; if I had the choice between watching something like Bridget Jones' Diary, or Pretty Woman, and 500 Days of Summer then I would hands down pick either of the first to. Why? I don't know. I am more drawn to happy endings. I think they're perhaps comforting, but maybe I'm just a soppy buggar! I'm not disputing the fact that 500 Days of Summer has a happy ending. Because it does, just with the protagonists falling for other people (sorry for those of you that haven't seen it)! And I liked the similarities in subverting expectations of romance that Bourne included in her new novel.
Then, naturally, we turned to the topic of the conventional Bad Boy. The idea that one girl can change a guy that is happy 'play[ing] the field, and the field next to it'. Bourne states that she intended for her male protagonist, Harry, to be the ideal man'. He is supposed to be the bad boy, but with depth, that gives girls hope. I started to realise that these sorts of characters give women far too much hope. And it was with this thought that I started to see how badly I had been conned by this genre of films!
Holly Bourne gave one of the best, kinda speeches I suppose. She talked about the concept of the chase and I, for one, needed to hear it. Bourne stated the obvious; that love isn't chasing a 'carrot'. The chase is nothing to do with love. Instead, it a symbol of power. She suggested that if you're jumping through all these hoops to get somebody, then are you really going to want them in the end anyway? This really made me think. I've wasted my time on a guy so much this year, and I wish I hadn't because all it has done is make me feel sad. Listening to Bourne's thoughts really knocked it into place for me, but she'd only been confirming what friends have said to me before. To sum it up, she encouraged us to stop chasing people.
'There are loads of awesome people out there who will love you for who you are'.
Witten asked Bourne, finally, what she wanted her readers to take away from her new book? And she responded that she wanted them to consider what each of their ideas of a happily ever after was. That it was important to consider that a happily ever after wasn't always these media induced ideas. Instead, it was about who made you feel safe. Who didn't make your stomach feel sick. A happily ever after is with someone who just makes you feel okay. And yet I couldn't agree with Bourne more, when she said that you can only have your version of your happily ever after if you loved yourself first. I'll admit, especially after this week, that I am not very good at loving myself. But I will always always encourage others to do it. Somebody else can not love the entirety of you, unless you are capable of it first. Its something I very much wish I was better at, and it is the root of a lot of insecurity in all sorts of different relationships.
Following this, Hannah introduced two games; Think Quick, followed by Kiss, Marry Kill. Here are some of my favourites in tweet form!
|I resent any negativity aimed at Mr Darcy!|
Bourne and Witten also discussed writing. Holly described writing as sitting at home, and hallucinating. Then writing it down! The only reason it's not thought of as a legitimate sign of madness is because the stuff gets published. I thought this was a wonderful way to look at it. She also describes the fact that this is her first time writing full time. Previously, she had written on trains on the way to work. And as exciting as it was, she often found herself staring into space whilst sat in a towel, after a shower.
One thing I enjoyed was an audience members question regarding a couple of boys that were at her school. They often poked fun at her for being a feminist. Both Witten and Bourne, whilst being distressed that it was still possible that people refused to see the obvious inequality between genders, argued that sometimes it was better to look after yourself, than to fight. I think they are right- choosing your battles is just as important as fighting for what you believe in. Bourne finished with the statement that 'you're a feminist- you are obviously kick arse'. I loved that.
She was so humble and incredibly funny. As I said, I finished her book this morning and I can now hear that in her writing. The signing was an absolute pleasure and I'm so glad that I went. The book is so so relatable too! Even more so than Am I Normal Yet! The whole divorce situation between her parents resonates so clearly for me. Especially the whole transferring of responsibility onto the children. It was awful and it made me feel very uncomfortable. And yet I didn't stop reading. The ending was my absolutely favourite and I hope to follow in Audrey's lead from now on. I don't wish to spoil anymore though.
If you haven't read it yet, hurry. It is well worth it and easily one of the best books I've come across this year!
Thank you Holly Bourne, for always making me feel a little bit more normal in the world.
Good night guys- have a lovely weekend!