The Art of Unpacking Your Life – Bloomsbury Reader

The Art of Unpacking Your Life coverThe Art of Unpacking Your Life is my new book, the novel I’ve been burning to write for years. I loved living with my characters. And I actively missed them when I finished Unpacking.

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Twenty years ago, they were the best of friends. When Connie invites her university gang on the holiday of a lifetime, a safari in the Kalahari, they have little in common anymore. Is getting them back together a terrible mistake?

Connie is lonely. With her children at secondary school and an ambitious MP husband, who is regularly adulterous, she is searching for her own purpose in life. She feels insecure next to Sara, a driven, defiantly single barrister, and has conflicted feelings towards her old flame, the freshly-divorced Luke, whose own secrets threaten to overwhelm him.

kalahari_jeepDespite the undercurrent of tension, they are drawn into the adventure and begin to enjoy each other once more, a million miles away from their daily concerns. They finally have space to explore what really matters to them. But a series of events and revelations bring new challenges to the group.

Conservative lawyer Matt doubtfully confides he is having a surrogate baby; Sara questions her own professionalism as her latest murder trial comes under scrutiny; Daniel discovers his yearning to buy land and put down roots, which his partner Alan does not share, and Lizzie struggles with feelings of jealousy that are closer to home than is comfortable for anyone.

As their lives start to unravel, they see how they are all linked together. New relationships are formed, old ones run their course, and more news from home brings further tragedy.

Can the stark beauty and calm of the Kalahari help them rediscover the friendship that binds them together? Will they all make it back to London in one piece? –

See also: The real life story behind Unpacking

See more at: Bloomsbury Reader

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Exiled – Quartet Books

Exiled Book CoverExiled: Shireen’s first novel, published in 2011.

Exiled is a dark, dysfunctional psychodrama set in New York

In love with her husband Jessie, an ambitious British diplomat, whose first posting brings them to New York, Anna begins the hectic, enjoyable life of a successful expat. But New York also brings her into contact with her husband’s manipulative and competitive stepmother Nancy, a powerful American socialite and philanthropist.

When a silly incident with her only son Josh involves the NY Police Department, Anna’s seemingly perfect world begins to shatter.

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Exiled on Goodreads

Exiled Polish version Book Cover

Bez powrotu, Exiled Polish edition.

“I am told by a Polish friend that Bez powrotu means literally “no way back” as in someone was sent somewhere and the return route has been cut off.

Here is the very seductive cover of the Polish edition of Exiled. I think that they have done a great job. It’s gorgeous”.

Shireen Jilla

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Shireen reading Exile

Q: Where did the idea of Exiled come from?
A: I was an expat living in New York with my husband Guto Harri, the BBC’s North America Correspondent, and my twin boys. I spotted an uber Upper East Sider in in Café Sabarsky (a wonderful Viennese-style café in the Neue Gallery on Fifth Avenue). I immediately wrote a description of her. She became Nancy, one of my main characters.

Q: How long did Exiled take you to write?
A: About 18 months. Though I did spend several months re-writing it.

Q: How did you come up with the title?
A: Well initially, I called it Stay Safe Anna. But it was a New York expression, which didn’t really translate to the UK. I was running along the towpath beside the River Thames when I thought of Exiled. I probably come up with my best ideas when I am away from my desk.