Sunday, 23 October 2011

E-Book - Wendy Robertson; Paulie's Web

I’m pledged to read one E-published book a month and this time it’s Wendy Robertson’s novel ‘Paulie’s Web’.  Wendy is a much-published author with more than 25 titles on the bookshelves.  Paulie’s Web is the novel her publishers didn’t want because they thought it too ‘difficult’ for her readership because it’s about women in prison and the challenges they face when released.  It came from several years spent working as a writer in prisons, an experience Wendy describes as ‘challenging and life-changing.’  

‘It has taken me ten years to digest the extremities of my experience in prison,’ Wendy says, ‘and write my novel as true fiction in a way that pays tribute to the many  women I met while working there. If, by the by, it goes some way to cracking the absurd stereotypes of women in prison it will be an extra delight.  While there are dark passages here I make no apologies for the ultimately optimistic tone of this story which is a true reflection of the humour, stoicism and kindness that I was witness to in my prison experience.’

The novel tells the story of 5 women locked in the same white van to be taken off to the remand centre.  One of them, Paulie, has been wrongly convicted and when she’s released, 6 years later, she’s determined to track down the other women and find out what’s happened to them. 

Paulie is a great character.  Wendy says that ‘If you are interested in the experiences of people on the margins of our comfortable lives, you will like Paulie! She is great – clever, resourceful and capable of surviving the hardest challenges that life throws up at her.’  In the prison, Paulie has become a writer and the women’s stories are interspersed with extracts from Paulie’s notebook. 

This is an honest novel - neither a misery memoir - which so many prison books are - or a romanticised version of unimaginably hard lives.  It offers a picture of a sector of society most of us know nothing of - except what we read in the papers.  I grew to love some of the characters - particularly Queenie, the elderly schizophrenic given to wandering and having visions, locked up in prison (like so many people with mental health issues) because there’s nowhere else to go.

There’s an underlying message in the book - Paulie finds redemption through the prison education system - through literature.  Wendy intended the novel to confront the issues of  ‘justice and injustice in ordinary people’s lives’, but it does more than that.

Wendy is an expert story-teller and wordsmith and Paulie’s Web is a delight to read, even though the subject matter is dark.  Hanging and flogging members of the House of Commons should be made to read it.

Wendy has an excellent blog on

If you're interested in E-books and authors doing it for themselves, check out


  1. Dear Kathleen
    Thank you so much for you insightful and much appreciated comment on Paulie's Web - which is my first venture into ePublishing - an intricate but very creative process rather different from writing a novel in the normal way. Because of this your review is all the more precious. love

  2. one time I tried to read e-books, but my eyes got tired and dry for spending a lot of time in front of the computer, that is why I do not like to read e-books anymore, I prefer the traditional paper book with their dust and particular old smell