Louise Levene is the author of A Vision of Loveliness, a BBC Book at Bedtime, which was also longlisted for the Desmond Elliott first novel prize, Ghastly Business and The Following Girls. She was the dance critic for the Sunday Telegraph for sixteen years and before that a dance writer on the Independent, but now works for the Financial Times. She lives in London with her husband and their two children.
Her new novel, HAPPY LITTLE BLUEBIRDS, will be published by Bloomsbury in May 2018.
Praise for HAPPY LITTLE BLUEBIRDS (2018):
'Great fun [...] As a heroine, [Evelyn] is a triumph. Orphaned and severed from her roots, she is the worthy heiress of Jane Eyre, Becky Sharp and, particularly, Flora Poste, in her steeliness, her steady eye and her use and appreciation of wit. Daughter of stern Nonconformists, who deplored almost everything that might seem like fun, she has been advised that, should she find herself facing difficult decisions, she should ask herself "What Would Jesus Do?" Pleasingly, she decides that quite often Jesus would probably have another little drink, or risk another spot of lipstick. California, she quickly learns, is very different from wartime Woking. [...] [Happy Little Bluebirds] is a bit of a romp, full of sharp one-liners and acerbic apercus, the kind of novel that makes you want to read paragraphs out to strangers, to share the joy.' Financial Times
'Enjoyable [...] The war seems remote, yet Levene deftly makes it simmer in the background. [...] [Evelyn's sister-in-law's] intimate letters contain some of the most evocative passages in the book. Levene gives us a brilliant array of sardonic, often horrifying portraits, too.' Spectator
'For the perfect piece of Bank Holiday escapism, look no further. It's September 1940, and Evelyn is plucked from her tedious Civil Service job in Surrey and sent to Hollywood to assist a British officer in creating war propaganda. A whip-smart comedy, chock-full with glamour, secret agents and sun-drenched Californian orange groves - seriously, what could be more heavenly?' Saga
‘Louise Levene’s cinematic satire brings sunshine and glamour … There’s pace and plenty of wit to keep you entertained until the credits roll’ Western Mail
Praise for GHASTLY BUSINESS (2011):
'Levene’s prose is so fresh, so enjoyable that you can’t help reading snippets out loud' Daily Telegraph
Praise for A VISION OF LOVELINESS (2010):
'I raced through A Vision of Loveliness, taking great delight in its sharply resurrected period detail... It's a delight - funny, sad and clever' Barbara Trapido
'This is biting social satire... Levene has a pitch-perfect ear for dialogue' Guardian
'A Vision of Loveliness is a pointed indictment of a sexist, small-minded society' Telegraph
It is September 1940 and Evelyn Murdoch, a translator from the Postal Censorship department, is uprooted from her home in wartime Woking and transferred to Hollywood. She is to assist a mysterious British agent in his attempts to outwit the Los Angeles German delegation and boost the British propaganda war effort.
The unhappy young widow is supplied with a new Californian wardrobe, a Bel Air bungalow and her own desk in the writers' block of Miracle Studios.
At first bewildered by the glamorous excesses of this strange new world, she is gradually seduced by the sunlight, orange groves and clever, fast-talking men. But, just as she begins to blossom, her new technicolor ending threatens to slip from her grasp.
When Amanda Baker was 14 she found a letter written by her runaway mother to her unborn child: 'Dear Jeremy' it began 'or Amanda...'
Mrs Baker still sends Christmas presents - Meccano, a fishing rod, a Spare Rib subscription - but her daughter is now in the coolly capable hands of Mr Baker's second wife, Pam, who trots home from work on her stacked heels to her formica 'dream kitchen', where she curls butter, grills grapefruit and swigs sherry from the bottle hidden under the sink. Meanwhile Amanda's dad, soured by his experiences with free-spirited women, crossbreeds fuchsias and salivates over glossy prospectuses in search of a new school for his disappointing daughter.
The happiest days of your life? Not for Baker, sixteen and sick of it as she moves miserably between lessons packed with palm fibre and the use of the dative. Baker's only solace is her fifth form gang - the four Mandies - and a low-calorie diet of king-sized cigarettes, until she teams up with Julia Smith, games captain and consummate game player. And so begins a passionate friendship that will threaten her future, menace her sanity and risk the betrayal of everything and everyone she holds dear.
The Following Girls weaves the minutiae of Seventies girlhood into an unsparing tragi-comedy of shrinking horizons, dangerous alliances and not-so-happy families.
Ghastly Business conjures the world of interwar London with gleeful vigour: a time when a woman’s body was only mentioned if someone had dismembered it; when the scars of the Great War were still fresh and when a pretty young bluestocking needed to tread very carefully in order to avoid becoming yet another of its casualties. A Vision of Loveliness, covered the heady days of the 1960s, with Ghastly Business Levene turns her eyes towards the year 1929, and the office of an eminent London pathologist.
Jane is a smart young thing in early-Sixties London. She read all the right books and, in one long weekend, launches herself from nothing-ever-happens Norbury to a nice little flat in Mayfair. But when a shocking act of violence threatens to bring Jane's glittering new life crashing down around her she must call on all her powers of reinvention.