TEENAGE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS: Author Anne Fine’s new book Shades of Scarlet is on the shelves
TEENAGE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS: Author Anne Fine’s new book Shades of Scarlet is on the shelves

BARNARD Castle-based author Anne Fine has unveiled her new book.

The former Children’s Laureate has published Shades of Scarlet, the latest title from the bestselling author of children’s fiction including The Tulip Touch, Bill’s New Frock, The Killer Cat series and Madame Doubtfire, among the dozens of other books she has written for both adults and children.

Ms Fine describes Shades of Scarlet as a coming of age novel, a sharply funny look at the complexities of family life and teenage emotions.

She said the way people try to pick their way through tricky family situations has always interested her.

When Scarlet woke as a toddler, her father would often try to guess her mood: “I wonder what shades of Scarlet we will have today.” Now she’s a teenager, she’s even more mercurial. And too sharp to be fooled or fobbed off.

So when Mum moves out of the family home at almost no notice, and Dad just seems feebly to let it happen, she’s furious with them both.

The story follows Scarlet for only a few weeks, but in her account of that time the reader gets to know exactly what she thinks and feels at every moment, and how she judges each of her parents for what they do, or don’t do.

Ms Fine says of the novel: “We all know ‘mummy and daddy know best’ can’t last for ever.

“And those times when the teenager can be more clear-sighted than the adult – know who is fooling themselves for their own purposes, or blinding themselves to inconvenient truths – can cause massive upheaval.

“Naturally, parents resist the discomfort and inconvenience such criticism brings. In this book, both Mum and Dad have to come to see and respect Scarlet in a very different way, and realise they’re no longer always in the right, while Scarlet has to start to learn the supposedly adult skills of forbearance and understanding.”

Ms Fine added: “I’ll bet half of Teesdale have been writing novels through lockdown.

“I finished this well before, but just as it was about to be published Covid struck, and all the promotion at festivals, conferences and literary events was summarily cancelled.

“But you can’t put off bringing out a book forever. It’s already been out in France for over a year. In any case, just like all the writers I know, I've been beavering away through these grim times with something very different.”

Ms Fine is usually happy to dedicate and sign books sold through The Mercury shop, but she admits: “I’ve broken my right arm and my current left-handed scrawl won't cut it. But if people are happy to make a date for later, I’ll be as willing as ever to do the job.”

l Shades of Scarlet (hardback – 273 pages) £12.99, is published by David Fickling Books, and available in the Teesdale Mercury shop.