Part 1, January 8-11 Summary
Juliet Ashton writes to her London publisher, Sidney Stark, and tells him of the literary luncheon she attended at Susan Scott’s. Though Ashton sold more than forty books, she is particularly impressed with the food Scott served. Scott was able to procure real eggs—a rarity—and sugar for the meringue. Ashton offers, from her royalties, to help pay for butter coupons for Scott’s next gathering. Work on Ashton’s new book, though, is not progressing very well.
Her original idea, English Foibles, seemed like a good idea. She was going to make fun of such entities as the Society to Protest the Glorification of the English Bunny and the Vermin Exterminators’ Trade Union, but it turns out there is not much to write about beyond the obvious, and she no longer wants to write this book. While she loves her pseudonym, Izzy Bickerstaff, Ashton does not want to write anything else under that name. In short, Ashton wants to be considered as more than a light-hearted journalist.
It was sometimes difficult to help her readers laugh during the war years, but that time is over for Ashton. In order to write humor, she must find a sense of balance and proportion; and right now she can find neither of these things. In the meantime, Ashton is glad that Izzy Bickerstaff Goes to War is making money for Stephens & Stark—it makes up (at least in part) for the “debacle” of her Anne Brontë biography.
Stark replies to Ashton’s letter a few days later and congratulates her on her effective connection to the audience at the literary luncheon. Based on that, he believes, she should not be nervous about her book tour next week; he is certain she will be a great success. He recalls having seen one of her dramatic readings eighteen years ago when she enthralled her audience—but suggests she should not throw the book at her audience when she is finished this time.
Scott is looking forward to taking...
(The entire section is 622 words.)