What publishers do for love

There is a delicate publishing leitmotif in Lisa Appignanesi’s The Things We Do For Love. Tessa Hughes works at the ‘Press’ in Cambridge “and within a few months” of marrying Stephen Caldwell, a geneticist at Trinity College, she “had been promoted to commissioning editor”. Tessa wants children, but on her birthday Stephen gives her “yet another book, she who had spent all her life surrounded by them, reading, editing, publishing. But what could he give her since he wouldn’t give her the only thing she really wanted? A child.

Her quest to find out the truth about Stephen (and to get the child she craves) takes her across Europe, where she meets the sensuous but devious Ted Knight. When Ted gives her a present of perfume, she tells him that she “once edited a book on smell”; she teases him about finding authors for her at a conference in Prague; when she threatens him with her knowledge of poisonous mushrooms, he supposes she “once edited a book about them” (in fact she “had a world expert for a teacher”, a previous equally unsuitable lover). By the end of the book Tessa is on her way back to England with her husband. She prepares for a life in which she may be pregnant by either Ted or Stephen, and she may adopt the infant child of a poor refugee she encountered in Prague.

She remembered that on her return to Cambridge, there would be a history of the South Slavs waiting for her, perhaps another on nineteenth century vice squads.” These books might come in handy as she brings up her adopted daughter and tries to avoid further encounters with sinister characters like Ted Knight.

Lisa Appignanesi, The Things We Do For Love, 1998

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