Thursday, October 16, 2008

Afternoon Tea with Jenni Murray

After a busy week of two big deadlines and one stinking cold, I was looking forward to a pleasant afternoon tea with Jenni Murray. In the elegant surroundings of the Midland Hotel's French Restaurant, around sixty women and two men gathered to listen to the broadcaster, writer and much loved presenter of Woman's Hour talk about her new book, 'Memoirs of a Not So Dutiful Daughter'. A dozen white tables with clean white cloths and silver cutlery and two magnificent chandeliers provided a refined backdrop to an interesting and unexpectedly moving afternoon.

Manchester Evening News Arts Critic, Kevin Bourke, provided the questions and a brief introduction. Jenni then talked about her book. She explained that the title was a spin on Simone de Beauvoir's book, 'Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter' and that like the de Beauvoir book, her book also dealt with the complex and often fraught relationship between a mother and daughter. She spoke about her childhood in Barnsley, of being a teenager in the sixties, her relationship with her mother and of her grandparents. She then read two poignant extracts on the death of her parents. Silence. I glanced around the room to see a number of women visibly moved.

Later she went on to speak jubilantly of arranging tickets to the Last Night of the Proms for her parents' 40th wedding anniversary. She remembered their delight as they emerged from the Royal Albert Hall waving their Union Jacks and how they sang Land of Hope and Glory on the way home.

When asked if she found writing her book to be cathartic, she explained that it was more that the book 'fell out of her' and that she felt compelled to write it. Her decision to publish the book was due to the universal themes of finding yourself suddenly responsible for a parent, of the issues of women and childcare and of finding good care homes.

Though much of the subject matter dealt with the emotional subjects of death, grieving and of Jenni's own recent experience with cancer, the tone was of hope and optimism. In the end she had arrived at an understanding of her mother and they had resolved their differences. And it is all of these experiences that have made Jenni Murray the broadcaster, writer, mother and woman she is today.


'Memoirs of a Not So Dutiful Daughter' by Jenni Murray (published by Bantam Press) is in shops now.

For more information on Jenni Murray visit

For more information on Simone de Beauvoir visit


Jenny Hudson also blogs at and

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