Posted: Friday 1st November 2019
Author F.J. Campbell is a new resident of St Albans, having moved here in 2018. Her first novel, No Number Nine, is a coming-of-age story for adults, set in Munich and at the Sydney Olympic Games.
‘I love reading coming-of-age novels and had huge amounts of fun writing this one, a bittersweet story about a young woman trying to get over her grief at the loss of a family member.’
The story follows a year in the life of Pip Mitchell, an 18-year-old who leaves England to start a job as an au pair in Munich. There she meets an unforgettable cast of characters, forming friendships, falling in love and trying to forget the devastating death of her sister.
The action culminates in a gripping finale set at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, where Pip’s past, present and future collide, threatening the happiness of everyone she loves.
One reviewer wrote: "The instant I started reading this book it had me hooked. A tale of a young girl seeking to find herself after her sister’s death, which leads her on travels and adventures that take her completely out of her comfort zone, with many twists and turns on the way. The characters are developed wonderfully and you live every moment with Pip. The book is easy to read with some proper belly laughs. I would highly recommend it.”
Previously, F.J. Campbell lived with her family in Zurich and Munich for thirteen years. This has given her a unique perspective and the experience of negotiating the up and downs of living abroad.
Before she moved away from the UK, she worked in several careers, including accountancy, PR and marketing in London. For a while after school, she worked as an au pair with a family in Paris. ‘Pip’s time as an au pair and mine were very different, because mine ended in a mortifying way – I was sacked for inviting some friends to stay at the family’s apartment while they were away on holiday. Shameful! Pip is much better behaved than I ever was at that age.’
F.J.’s second novel, The Islanders, is a Young Adult novel set in a boarding school, and is inspired by Thomas Hardy’s classic Far from the Madding Crowd.
‘For me, Far from the Madding Crowd is an absolutely perfect book. It has everything – love, action, humour, and a strong female character with figurative mountains to climb when she takes over the running of a farm in the 19th century. In my opinion, the original bad-girl feminist heroine is Bathsheba Everdene.’
In The Islanders, the story is transported from 19th century Wessex to an isolated boarding school in Dorset in the 1980s and 90s. All of Hardy’s characters have been reimagined as teenagers who fall in and out of love, keep secrets from one another and grow up fast. Even if you know what happened to Bathsheba Everdene and her three suitors, you’ll adore this new version of a classic coming-of-age story.
A reviewer had this to say about The Islanders: “It ticked all of my nostalgia boxes, so many shared cultural references of my youth! It's dripping with well-researched detail, beautiful landscapes, and the thrill of teenage romance. I'd describe The Islanders as a British 10 Things I Hate About You - in fact, it'd be perfect for the screen! I'd love to see a film adaptation! So if that sounds like it's up your alley, make sure you get yourself a copy pronto."
No Number Nine and The Islanders are available from the Herts libraries collection.
Find out more about F.J. Campbell at www.fjcampbell.net.