Untwisted is an enjoyable and revealing look at a writer’s life. Paul Jennings explores both the inspiration to write and the effects a need to write have on an author with a refreshing candour that ensures this book is a fascinating read.
Paul Jennings is a natural storyteller. The writing is sensitive and humorous and his style has an openness that provides an insight into the author’s mind and reading this book feels rather like sitting down together for a chat. I can well understand why young readers find Jennings’ style so engaging. His appeal to children in his novellas and short stories transfers successfully to an appeal to adults in this thoughtful memoir.
Rather than telling his life story in a strict chronological order Paul Jennings uses anecdotes and episodes grouped in themes which move around periods in his life. This works well as the links and common threads are picked up again and again as you read. He is refreshingly candid and not afraid to discuss marriage breakdown, mental health and family relationships. In particular the writing about his relationship with his father is at times deeply affecting. There are funny anecdotes, memories of childhood and snapshots of life as a teacher with all its joys and difficulties. At times funny and at others heartbreaking I found Paul Jennings an engaging narrator.
Unsurprisingly this book contains excellent advice for would be writers and also for educators trying to instil a love of reading and writing in their pupils. Jennings submitted a short writing piece to a magazine when he was 13 which was rejected. Dismayed and demoralised by what he perceived to be a failure he did not write again until he reached 40. His success as a children’s author may partly be explained by his understanding of the worries, concerns and emotions of children and what matters most to them. His vivid recollections of childhood problems and experiences are inspirations for many of his stories.
This interesting and enjoyable memoir would be of particular interest to any children’s book lovers however the reflection on life, on choices made, the joy shared and the difficulties encountered is relevant to all. I thoroughly enjoyed this fascinating book.
Untwisted: the stories of my life by Paul Jennings is published by Old Barn Books. I would like to thank Ruth Huddleston for providing my proof copy and apologies that it took me far too long to get round to reading it. I wish I had read it earlier now!