Hi, I’m Emily! I’m an American but I currently live in England. My novel, THE WHOLE WORLD, is set in England, but being published in America. I’m thrilled to be part of the Debutante Ball.
In 2006 I moved from New Hampshire to Cambridge (UK) with my husband and two little boys. There was a lot to adapt to, starting with language:
Here, smart means “well dressed.” To compliment someone’s intellect, call them “clever.”
To revise means to study. Improving the contents of a paper is “rewriting.”
Pants are underwear. Over them, you wear jeans or “trousers” or, for sweatpants, “track-suit bottoms.” (My favorite creative use of the word ‘pants’ is as an insult.)
My novel THE WHOLE WORLD is set here in Cambridge, narrated by two Americans and three British characters. I’ve worked hard to make each narrator’s vocabulary and sentence structure reflect their nationality, but the options are more subjective than that.
Americans here absorb British words from the conversations around them, and the Brits pick up Americanisms from the media. Every character’s word choices show something about what they resist and what they cling to, and the ways they’re willing to adapt.
Despite vocabulary quibbles, I hardly feel foreign here at all, because Cambridge is a very international city. And in many ways a transient one, as students and scholars pass through for just a few years each. I’ve been here three years now, which nearly qualifies me as a local. Writing THE WHOLE WORLD gave me an excuse to explore eccentric corners of the city and university, and ask lots of cheeky questions. In the book, I’ve tried to make Cambridge itself nearly a character.
The story starts like this: Polly and Liv, two American undergraduates studying here, fall for the same charming grad student, who suddenly disappears. In narrative turns, the two girls, a blind professor, a policeman, and the missing man himself reveal what happened to him–and what terrible things then happen between those left behind.
THE WHOLE WORLD is a mystery and launches in May from Delacorte Press (Random House). I’m excited to be sharing this exciting year here at The Debutante Ball.
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