My husband is currently reading my new book. In the past he would have read it at manuscript stage but lately he’s not been well enough to shuffle four hundred loose sheets of paper. I waited until I had a bound proof to offer him.

This is always a tense time for me. Naturally I want him to like it, just as I hope he’ll like my haircut or the dinner I put before him but when all’s said and done, it is what it is. A failed recipe can be scraped into the bin but a year’s writing cannot. One thing I have learned though – not to judge anything by his behaviour as he reads.

I used to listen, desperate to hear a chuckle. There’d be nothing but silence punctuated by the turning of a page. Then he’d finish, come and find me where I was hiding, whimpering in a broom cupboard, and say, ‘You’re a very funny woman.’

So lack of chuckles doesn’t signify and neither does sighing or throwing the finished book onto the floor. If I threw a book it would be the most fatal condemnation of its merit, but with Mr F is simply means, ‘That was a good read. And now I’m ready for a cup of tea.’

He’s about two thirds through A Humble Companion but today will be too busy for any reading. I figured the verdict wasn’t likely to be returned before Monday morning. But he just walked into the kitchen, his voice thick with emotion, and said, ‘It’s very touching, and the humour’s much gentler than usual.’

Than which I could ask for no higher praise. Reader? I married him.

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