In an occasional series, we’ll be catching up with various British authors and finding out about their books and their reading lives. This week, we hear from Welsh author Hannah Tovey, whose novel The Education of Ivy Edwards came out a year ago, and whose second novel Is This It? is hot off the press — and great if you’ve ever wondered about Welsh vocabulary and culture.
Please tell us a bit about you and your latest book.
I am from Llanelli, in South Wales, and grew up in Hong Kong. I graduated from the Faber Academy in 2018, where I finished my debut novel, The Education of Ivy Edwards, which was a #1 bestseller on Amazon in 2020. My second novel Is this It? came out 22nd July 2021.
Is This It? is a comedy about self-reinvention, singlehood and the search for a career that doesn’t just pay the bills. The novel also touches upon themes of loneliness and the constant pressure on women to self-improve, which have never felt more timely.
The main character is Welsh and her Welsh identity and family feature heavily in it. Is This It? also features an exclusive glossary of Welsh words used in the book and a note on the Welsh element of the novel, which is really important to me. It’s about time we see authentic Welsh characters on the page!
What’s the last book you fell in love with and haven’t stopped thinking about and recommending?
Emma Jane Unsworth’s Adults. Emma’s writing is cynical, honest and utterly relatable – I’m such a fan of her work. Adults is a fantastic critique of social media and the pressure that women face to appear ‘perfect’ online. The protagonist, Jenny, is brilliantly bonkers and there are some phenomenal one-liners from both her and her mother, which are a real treat.
What’s the last book you bought for someone else (and why)?
I bought Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid for my sister from Brick Lane Bookshop, in East London, which is a glorious independent shop. We always share book recommendations and I was keen to get her thoughts on this one. I found it quite difficult to read at times, but I inhaled it, nonetheless. It’s so layered – inter-racial relationships, white guilt, privilege, allyship – and Reid writes so effortlessly. It’s a really important read and it’s hard to believe it’s a debut.
What’s the last book someone gave you?
My friend Grace, who is a walking thesaurus, gave me The Artist’s Way, which is a guidebook to getting back to the creative artist you’re meant to be. It’s part spiritual practice, part workable programme. She said, and I quote, ‘If it’s good enough for Martin Scorsese and Elizabeth Gilbert then it’s good enough for you.’ I promised myself I’d read it before I get stuck into writing book three, so I need to get moving!
What’s on your bedside table to read next?
Daisy Buchanan’s fiction debut, Insatiable, which is about a vulnerable young woman entering a world of power and greed. It sounds so racy and raw and completely up my street. I pre-ordered it back in January, but I’ve been saving it for my holidays as I want to get caught up in it without any distractions.