Emma Jane Unsworth studied English Literature at Liverpool university and is an accomplished writer of short fiction and a locally acclaimed journalist from Manchester. Her debut novel Hungry the Stars and Everything seamlessly interweaves tales of greed, addiction and love with a little touch of magic realism.
The tale follows Helen Burns, a 29 year old food critic who is assigned to review a mysterious new restaurant called ‘Bethel’ which has been tipped to receive a Michelin star. With each course that is brought out by the maitre de, Helen recalls memories that link together to form the novel’s plot.
The novel delves into teenage fantasies and sexual awakening, as Unsworth explores how the decisions made during adolescence can deeply affect those made later in life. Zipping back and forth in time, the story begins on Christmas Eve 1991 when Helen is on the cusp of puberty and totally fed up of being a good little girl. After sneaking downstairs to eat one of her father’s Christmas presents, the birthmark on her palm begins to burn red hot and it’s at this moment that she sees the devil for the first time.
Unsworth’s writing style blends warm Mancunian humour with a journalist’s eye for detail, and although the novel is at heart a romance, it has a dark pulse beating away. At times it feels as though Unsworth has enjoyed playing with her heroine, as Helen lurches between moments of personal epiphany and the next is plunged into self-annihilation. You never know quite what to expect next in Hungry the Stars and Everything, and it is precisely this kind of plate-spinning of themes and plots which makes Unsworth such a promising new writer.
You really should get down to Waterstone’s on Deansgate and buy a copy.