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Book launch: ‘Your voice in my head’ by Emma Forrest

Emma Forrest has written a beautiful, moving and surprisingly funny account of mental illness. We went to Exmouth Market to hear her read to a spellbound audience.

Written by Jessica Furseth

Illustration by Stephanie Thieullent

‘I’m unhappy about my Wellingtons,’ Emma Forrest says as she makes her way through the packed bookshop. ‘I thought it was going to rain and then it didn’t, and now I’m a little embarrassed.’ She takes her seat next to David Baddiel, the novelist and comedian who will interview her later. I have to admit I tend to frown upon wellie-wearing not merited by the weather too, but I was going to let that go for Emma the wordsmith. But now it seems not only does she write lovely books full of excellent literary quirks, she has sound wellie-sense too.

Considering she’s here to read from a memoir of manic depression and bereavement, Emma is funny. While unafraid to dig into the heart of the subject matter, ‘Your voice in my head’ is at times a book that makes you laugh out loud. ‘It’s important to include humour, no matter how dark the material is,’ says Emma.

Illustration by Alexandra Rolfe

Clerkenwell Tales, the little independent bookshop on Exmouth Market, was packed to the brim with people wanting to hear Emma read. But if you Google Emma Forrest you will see what she is most famous for, and it has nothing to do with writing. She used to date a certain Hollywood actor, whose name remains hidden behind a pseudonym both in the book and during the reading. But what prompted her to write this book is that just as this all-consuming love affair ended, Emma’s beloved therapist died and left her alone to pick up the pieces. The title of the book is a reflection of her reverence for him, and the book is also a celebration of the good doctor and all the people he helped.

Illustration by Gareth A Hopkins

I first discovered Emma Forrest as she published her previous novel, ‘Cherries in the snow’. I loved the book – partially for it being an unusual take on the girl-in-the-city genre (I refuse to call it chick-lit), but also because it is beautifully written with clever turns of phrases and unique metaphors. Waiting for Emma’s next book took five years, before ‘Your voice in my head’ was published a few weeks ago. Born in the UK, Emma now lives in Los Angeles where she’s a screenwriter; ‘There is so much open sky in LA. You really get a sense that your problems aren’t any bigger than anyone else’s, and that things can be dealt with.’

Illustration by Kiran Patel at Illustrating Rain

As the Q&A session wanders from the funny towards the dark, some of the questions, both from Baddiel and the audience, turn incredibly personal. The room grows completely silent as Emma describes the mania. ‘Madness felt like trying to write about music, which is so difficult to describe. Madness and music are a similar place to be.’ And later: ‘It takes a while to be able to choose to leave mania, to choose to get better. But eventually you reach a place where you need to leave it behind, to be part of the world.’ The girl sitting in front of me nods her head gently as Emma speaks, it seems she knows it’s true.

I buy the book and Emma signs it for me; she’s tiny even in her wellie heels. I read it on the train home and miss my stop.

Illustration by Sarah Alfarhan

‘Your voice in my head’ is out now. Read Emma’s blog here.


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2 Responses to “Book launch: ‘Your voice in my head’ by Emma Forrest”

  1. Jules says:

    I’ve read one of her novels before and am really interested to read this new book as I suffer from mental health issues too….wish I could have seen her in Exmouth Market!

  2. Jess says:

    She actually put on two readings in London, the one in Exmouth Market and one the night before, but both filled up in a flash. Popular girl!

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