The review below appeared in the HALIFAX EVENING COURIER,
FOR a middle-aged person like myself, there can be only one thing wrong with Jill Robinson's debut novel. It's far too close to home.
Jill - although she vehemently denies it because she is far too modest for her own good - is set to do for us fortysomethings what Bridget Jones's creator, Helen Fielding did for the thirtysomethings.
"Berringden Brow - Memoirs of A Single Parent With A Crush" is an endearing tale of unrequited love set against a backdrop of a village "somewhere not too far from Halifax", where heroine Jess discovers a visit to her local library can bring her out in a hot flush, her teenage children are becoming stroppier by the minute and her friend who runs a second-hand shop, seems to think she is a prize candidate for nearly-new underwear.
While she battles with "ageism, sizeism, lookism and sexism", she is also mindful of keeping one eye on the newspaper personal columns just in case the perfect man does exist.
After devouring the book in two self-indulgent sittings (it is very difficult to put down for any length of time), I was given to meet the real heroine - Jill herself and it was/ is too tempting not to ask just how much of this very funny and sometimes, touching saga is autobiographical.
"Well, quite a lot of it," she confesses.
Jill herself, a woman "of a certain age", is a single parent with two sons and has experiences of the places she features in her book including living for a time in Africa.
Born in the West Country, she came north to study at Leeds University and originally trained as a teacher but the book is not the first time she has seen her name in print. She has contributed to a variety of publications ranging from parish magazines and local newspapers to the "Guardian", "Observer" and "Big Issue." She now lives in Luddenden Foot but will not confirm whether this is indeed, the fictitious Berringden Brow.
"It's somewhere not too far from Halifax, shall we say."
She claims she was inspired ed to write the book because of something Germaine Greer wrote in her book about the menopause. All heroines tended to be young, complained Greer. Where were the hilarious harridans? "So I decided to give her one," confesses Jill - in fact she dedicates the book to Greer and recently had the opportunity to present her with a copy.
"I am still waiting for the feedback."
Set in the "recent past", it took Jill who is a researcher at Sheffield University, just over a year to complete. Her first critics were her friends many of whom, naturally form the basis for many of the characters in the book. She admits she hadnt really intended it for publication.
"Originally I just thought l'd put something together based on my experiences and something which might amuse my friends because they'd be able to recognise themselves. It was they who suggested I think about publishing it."
There were initial rejections but Jill was then inspired by another local author to contact publishers, Pennine Pens, in Calderdale.
"Yes, I have to admit, to see it in print is very exciting and I really am pleased. So far sales are going well and people are telling me they're taking it into their offices and workplaces and others are ordering copies."
Jill admits just to see the first print run of 1000 copies sold would be a dream come true and a second print run, beyond her wiIdest expectations.
But doesn't she have ambitions for it to be turned into a major block-buster movie, then?
"Oh, no," she says, begging me not to even think of writing anything in this vein.
But surely she must fantasise about who would play her in the film version?
"No, really, I will just be happy to sell a few copies and for people to enjoy it.
And can we expect any further adventures of Jess? Well, she admits she has a school reunion to attend and a book signing in a chip shop where a free fish supper will be given to anyone buying the book. Surely these sound like further experiences to be jotted down for future reference.
"Who knows? Perhaps we will see Jess making a return in another book."
I can only speak for myself but I do hope so.