Author’s comic debut explores Hackney singledom via the Welsh valleys

Author Hannah Tovey Photography by Krishanthi

Author Hannah Tovey Photography by Krishanthi - Credit: Archant

Hannah Tovey’s debut The Education of Ivy Edwards is billed as a cross between Fleabag and Gavin and Stacey as newly single heroine embarks on a vodka-tinged learning curve

The Education of Ivy Edwards by Hannah Tovey

The Education of Ivy Edwards by Hannah Tovey - Credit: Archant

Ivy is 31, no husband, no kids, and not in her perfect job.

She’s the protagonist of Hannah Tovey’s debut novel The Education of Ivy Edwards which is set between Hackney and the Welsh valleys.

Hailed as a cross between Gavin and Stacy and Fleabag, the author who was born in Wales and now lives near Victoria Park wanted to write about “real Welsh people”.

“I thought there was a gap in the market for showing authentic Welsh characters. I wanted to show that the Welsh are really funny, can be very romantic and are obsessed with family,” she said.

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Dumped by her fiancee, with her family miles away in the Wales, Ivy embarks on vodka-tinged singledom in London with raw and hilarious results.

Ivy’s age is significant. Tovey wanted someone relatable who resonated with people of her age group.

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“I deliberately made Ivy 31 because as a woman there are lots of expectations placed on you. You have to be married, to have a house, and be in your perfect job. And that’s not the case.

“It was really important that she absolutely didn’t have her life together, but could show throughout her journey that she was fine and could cope. There’s so much pressure on women to be a certain way at a certain age, I wanted to turn that on its head because I don’t think that’s healthy.”

Tovey actually grew up in Hong Kong and wanted to be an actress before a nervous stammer put paid to her dream.

She turned to writing “you don’t stammer when you write” and for seven years took a notepad everywhere jotting down overheard conversations and observations before penning her first novel.

A six month novel writing course at Faber Academy also helped to hone her craft.

“It’s constant critique and feedback, that really focused me. Without that, you could be writing forever without knowing whether it’s any good.”

She’s inspired by the comic writing of Nora Ephron, David Nicholls, Judy Bloom, and Helen Fielding.

“I spend my life trying to hide the fact that I stammer. I change certain words or phrases so that if I’m stuck on a letter I can change the subject.

“That’s why I’m into writing fast conversations, particularly comedy - getting down these short, sharp sentences that in my own life I miss out on saying because I’m scared of stammering.”

The publication of her debut by Little Brown is an “absolute dream come true” and there’s a sequel pegged for Summer 2021. But as a perfectionist it also petrifies her.

“My dream is to have people read my work. I want everybody to love it and connect with it, but once its on paper you can’t change it, and that frightens me.”

Tovey is supporting independent bookstore Pages of Hackney in Lower Clapton as part of the #signforourbookshops campaign. Until December 2, all copies come with a personalised signed bookplate designed by the Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell.

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