leigh london


“She always looked attractive, too. In the early morning when many stars arrive at the studio bleary-eyed, ghostly without make-up, wearing crumpled slacks, dark glasses, some grotesque head covering and gasping for black coffee, Vivien was different. She was immaculate and could have been going to a point-to-point meeting on a lunch date at the Ivy. Instead of the tired toweling wraps or make-up splattered housecoats that one usually sees on a set, Vivien always wore perfectly tailored pure silk cut like a man’s dressing gown- and looked ravishing. Many of her friends thought that with her transparently pale, fine skin her face had some real beauty when she did not wear make-up.” -Gwen Robyns


“I think all this talk about acting is - you just have to act, you have to do the thing, you have to practice the art, just like a painter practices his art, just like a writer writes.” - Vivien Leigh

“The lonely and unhappy little girl with dark curly hair and large blue-green eyes was soon made a fuss of by the nuns, and because she seemed so young to be away from her home and family, they allowed her certain privileges. One of these, a matter of some envy among the older girls in her dormitory, was permission to take a kitten to bed with her at night.” – Felix Barker describing the beginning of Vivien’s comradeship with cats while a schoolgirl at Roehampton Convent.


Book: Fangirl

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Rating: 5*

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan…

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

I’m doing a back-review for this book today because I’m trying pretty hard to get caught up with all of my book-blogging stuff while I’m at home and today is my day off so!

I bought this book in mid-September 2015 while I was living in Bristol for a while with my then-boyfriend. I read it in ebook form although I later managed to get myself a signed paperback version when I went to see Rainbow Rowell and Leigh Bardugo in London. Anyway, I had been extremely ill over the summer and was teetering/starting to slide down the slope of a nervous breakdown that September- I just didn’t know it at the time. I was frightened of everything and was finding it difficult to distract myself. Then I bought Fangirl and I curled up with it while I had the flat to myself every day for a few days. It was eye-opening.

I loved the story from the very beginning. It had the right amount of fluffiness and also poignancy and a fair bit of comedy. It was exactly the kind of book I like to read in the early autumn/back-to-school season. It was also fairly hard-hitting, in that it dealt with abandonment, issues around identity (particularly as a twin), anxiety (particularly social anxiety), and starting college. I was fond of the book in this regard because I would love to see more YA/NA take up the stories of young people beginning/or finding their way through university and the trials and tribulations of leaving your childhood behind, or finding some way to synthesize it into your adult experience. 

“I would love to see more YA/NA take up the stories of young people beginning/or finding their way through university and the trials and tribulations of leaving your childhood behind, or finding some way to synthesize it into your adult experience.” 

It also dealt a lot with questions of art, what it means to be a writer, what can be considered as art- and it took a long hard look at these issues through a feminist lens- evaluating the role fanfiction has played and still has to play in the education of young female writers, and the extent to which sometimes men (or just other collaborators) will be happy to take credit for the work of young women. Rowell is a talented writer with a wry eye for comic self-reflection, and this is what makes this book so readable and comic. Her intertextual dialogue with the Harry Potter books and the many thousands of fanfictions they spawned (and later, with her own creation Carry On) is a complicated and complex endeavor that is perhaps too easily over-simplified by this book being marked as part of the YA genre. It’s honestly a book worth your time.

When I finally finished Fangirl I didn’t have an epiphany about where I was at in my life, but I had slowly absorbed a new way of thinking about my situation. I had empathised so much with Cath and her struggles felt authentic to me, and the fact I could empathise so strongly and remember skipping dinner for the first three or four days of university because I was worried I wouldn’t know where to sit/put my tray/would accidentally do something wrong planted a seed of re-evaluation that eventually culminated in a recognition and acceptance that maybe I was scared too, and that maybe I was feeling an abandonment that had happened emotionally, even if it wasn’t to occur physically for another two months.



The Bravo of London. Ernest Bramah. London: Cassell & Co. Ltd. (1934). First edition. Original dust jacket by Conrad Leigh.

“Books, eh?” observed the inspector picking up the topmost. “Rise and Fall of the Dutch Republic feels a trifle heavy for my taste.” He shook it loosely open and a metal plate fell out and rang upon the floor—a copper sheet engraved, among other details of words and figures, with the name of the Bank of England.