The next book to be featured on the Jo Whiley Radio 2 Book Club will be Royals by Emma Forrest. It was released on 31 October and Emma will be on the show on Monday 2 December.
We have an exclusive extract available for you to read.
We also have the chance for you to win 10 copies of this fantastic novel for your reading group! Please enter by Friday 6 December.
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July, 1981. London. Shy, working-class Steven finds solace in beauty. Eighteen years old, he dreams of being a fashion designer. He’s also gay, maybe – he hasn’t decided yet. There’s a lot Steven isn’t sure about, like whether he hates himself or thinks he’s amazing.
When he ends up in hospital after being brutally attacked by his father, he meets Jasmine, an heiress. Intoxicating, anarchic, fabulous Jasmine. Fuelled by their shared love of fashion, a friendship blossoms and soon, Steven finds himself swept into her hedonistic world, wholly beguiled. However, underneath the glitter and the frivolity, darkness lies.
Devastating, dazzling, queer and radical, Royals is a love story between unlikely friends from completely different worlds. It’s about the power of art to transform lives and the power of families to destroy them. It’s about working out who you are and what you want. It’s a tale of giddy happiness, crushing lows and, ultimately, the fragility of lives lived too fast.
Selection panel review
The book was selected with the help of a panel of library staff from across the UK. Our readers loved Royals – here are some of their comments:
“The book’s set in 1981, the year of Charles and Diana’s wedding, which was a momentous time for Steven, 18, as events led him to meet 19-year-old Jasmine in hospital – he’s been attacked by his father, she’s overdosed again. After meeting her his life would never be the same. They both have father problems – one abusive, one absent, and mother issues; she’s a sad rich girl and he’s an insecure Jew, maybe gay, with a talent for fashion design. Both are likeable, interesting characters. I found their unlikely friendship, the escapades that Jasmine gets them into, and the highs and lows of their relationship compulsive. I enjoyed being back in the 1980s with the music and clothes of the time. I thought it was beautifully written. A lovely read, both funny and touching.”
“Sexually confused aspiring dress designer Stephen and charismatic heiress Jasmine enjoy an intense friendship after meeting in hospital. I loved the characters and humour in this novel. The author has a sharp eye for idiosyncrasy and portrays the characters with wit and warmth. The effect of family upon the individual is beautifully portrayed with Jasmine’s lonely, emotionally unsupported existence drawn in stark relief to Stephen’s loving family safety net. As Stephen is looking back at the friendship, we know that he is enjoying a successful life and realise the impact that Jasmine’s friendship had on that whilst sensing a residual melancholy. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel; it is an acutely observed study of friendship and family relationships.”
“Beautiful story of an unexpected friendship between Steven, a Jewish East end boy, searching for his place in the world and Jasmine, an ‘It’ girl. Set in the 1980’s, the two meet in Guy’s hospital following Steven being beaten up by his Father and Jasmine having taken an overdose. The two become virtually inseparable best friends for a short time, Jasmine introducing Steven to the high life, both sharing issues around their relationships with their fathers and families, until tragedy strikes. Beautifully written, magnificent sense of place and character. Highly recommended.”
About the author
Emma Forrest has published three novels, an essay collection and the memoir Your Voice in My Head. An Anglo-American currently based in London, she recently wrote and directed her feature debut, Untogether.
Tune in to Jo Whiley’s show on Monday 2 December to hear a live interview with Emma.You can also see what other readers thought or add the book to your group’s reading list.
Planning to buy Royals for your book group? Buy books from Hive and support The Reading Agency and local bookshops at no extra cost to you.