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  Opinion   Columnists  01 Apr 2024  Kishwar Desai | To grab readers, go to BookTok... Cancer can't rob Kate of gravitas

Kishwar Desai | To grab readers, go to BookTok... Cancer can't rob Kate of gravitas

Kishwar Desai, is the chair of the Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust, which is setting up the Partition Museum at Town Hall, Amritsar.
Published : Apr 1, 2024, 12:33 am IST
Updated : Apr 1, 2024, 12:33 am IST

As best-selling authors become younger, the literary landscape undergoes a vibrant transformation, attracting a new generation of readers.

Best-selling author Holly Jackson's success story highlights the power of leveraging platforms like BookTok to reach wider audiences. (Image: Twitter)
 Best-selling author Holly Jackson's success story highlights the power of leveraging platforms like BookTok to reach wider audiences. (Image: Twitter)

have no idea why best-selling authors are getting younger and younger — but it certainly is an uplifting thought. Because if authors are getting younger that means so are readers. I remember when I first started going to book club events I would usually encounter a sea of grey — now you can hear the age group drop and the hair is either green or pink or some other youthful shade. But then many of the reader-grabbing techniques of younger authors are rarely applied by us, the older and not so tech-savvy authors.  

But honestly — you have to go where the readers are “hanging out” and grab them — and most of them are on “BookTok”. Move over Oprah Winfrey we have a new king /queen maker! 

The latest bestselling author, Holly Jackson, used good advice from her well-wishers and agents, and went onto BookTok to make her Young Adult book A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder into the phenomena that it is. It is on the top of the crime fiction charts and is being made into a BBC serial. And she has beaten the usual suspects in the category including stalwarts like James Patterson. So yes, the 32-year-old has written Young Adult fiction but she has got herself higher and higher ratings in the overall crime fiction stakes. As a crime fiction author myself — I applaud her for her tenacity and self-belief that she will continue to beat the very best in the category. Oh to be young and ambitious!

Meanwhile, we are all overwhelmed by Catherine, the Princess of Wales, and the dignity with which she has dealt with the revelation that she has cancer. I know there were many in the media who were quick to mock the use of photoshopping, etc., — but all of us must remember that Catherine has been very serious about her role and image, and that is why there is so much respect for her. She is not the kind of person who would have tried to conceal anything, unless there was a very good reason, and I wish those who tried to belittle her had taken some time to reflect. The signs of a serious illness were all there — as no one who is young, athletic and healthy would require so much time in the hospital, and certainly her seclusion from public life was also a giveaway. For a young mother, the cancer would have been a huge shock — and undoubtedly the family is still coping with the changed reality. One wishes her well and hopes that there is a quick remission, post chemotherapy, so we can see her back in public life once more.

For me one of the greatest sights of London has been the Thames. We are fortunate to live near the river and to enjoy the sight of the boats on the glistening river. I know there has been a time, in the past, when the water was full of filth and in summer the smell was so foul that Parliament needed to be shut. Who could have imagined that the same river could become the pride of the city… But not if it is not looked after and cleaned regularly as it appears that a lot of sewage is being dumped both into it and other rivers of the UK. And water-borne diseases are rising. This is really worrying as we have all enjoyed drinking water straight from the tap — with no filters. Now it seems we should not take our health and safety so lightly, and unless some serious action is taken — raw sewage could be a cause for complaint. Some reports say that there was a 105 per cent increase in the amount of untreated sewage being dumped into the rivers and seas in the past one year. Even boating is becoming a dangerous activity! How will we cope in summer when everyone is sailing down the Thames in boats, barges and kayaks? …hopefully Thames will get back its glory. Otherwise when you are “taking the air” on the South Bank — you may be imbibing a lot more than you bargained for.

Meanwhile — no one looks far for a controversy, you can even start a debate over a bun! Hot cross buns are on sale in the supermarkets and there are articles in tabloids telling you how much jam to smear on the buns before eating them. These buns, made with cinnamon, blueberries and raisins, with a cross across them are symbolic of Christ on the Cross. But then someone selling cheese with those ingredients has been criticised for sacrilege. Buns yes. Jam yes. Cheese no. How do we end this controversy? This is where we need an urgent judgement from Nigella Lawson, maybe?

A final word on books — our favourite classics —which are clearly going to be wrecked by woke inspectors.  According to them, there is gender bias and racism in just about every author from the past, whom we have adored in our ignorance! Did you know that Shakespeare is full of characters who are mostly White and male. Peter Pan as well as Alice in Wonderland promote White supremacy. Even Around the World in 80 Days is suspect. It had a colonial narrative! So if you want to read them — do it in stealth and admit your guilt only at a confessional. 

Tags: young authors, kate middleton, river thames