‘There’s a silent grief after losing a baby, it’s like it’s contagious and if you talk about it, it may happen to others’
In her new book, Giovanna Fletcher gives a searing insight into her experience of becoming a mum, including how she also had to cope with the pain of miscarriage. She talks to Hannah Stephenson
Giovanna Fletcher would seem to have it all; pop star husband, two gorgeous sons - Buzz (2) and one-year-old Buddy - and a hugely successful career of her own as a bestselling author, blogger and vlogger.
But there have been dark days for the bubbly, down-to-earth writer. Diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, Giovanna, who had always wanted a family, wasn't sure she'd be able to conceive.
A year after she and childhood sweetheart, McFly's Tom Fletcher, tied the knot in 2012, she fell pregnant - however, she feared it was too good to be true.
"A few days later, I woke up to blood. Anyone who's ever experienced that moment knows the paralysing horror that comes with it."
At hospital, a scan showed "there was nothing there. No heartbeat. No baby. Nothing. I'd suffered a complete early miscarriage at just over six weeks".
Tom, who had been giving a radio interview, drove to find his wife sobbing on a London street corner and just held her.
"I've heard miscarriage be referred to as the loneliest grief. It is. It's so insular. So personal. So soul-crushing. The black cloud of grief followed me for a while."
She retells the story in her new book, Happy Mum Happy Baby, an otherwise upbeat and honest account of her own experience of pregnancy and motherhood, telling it as she's experienced it, warts and all.
It's the first time she's revealed details of her miscarriage, saying she wants to try to break the taboo surrounding the topic. "I didn't want it whittled down to a soundbite.
"It was part of my journey to becoming a mum. Miscarriage is something that so many people go through, and we go through it silently and don't talk about it.
"It affected me massively. When you get pregnant, you have years of hopes and dreams that are suddenly born, and when that doesn't go according to plan, it's crushing. There's a silent grief that comes with it because you are told not to tell people about it.
"It's like it's contagious and if you talk about it, it might happen to other people. It's so lonely."
Within months, she was pregnant again, but it was difficult not to be nervous.
"I didn't relax until I got to the 24-week mark and you could feel them move around. You start questioning every little niggle," she reveals. "But it didn't spoil the enjoyment. I love being pregnant."
And indeed, her book is an uplifting read, as she talks about stumbling her way through motherhood, the sleepless nights, the crying, the feeding, the uncertainties that she's doing the right thing.
"Everyone thinks they know what they are doing but the truth is, they don't. We're completely winging it."
When Buzz was 10 months old, they followed Tom on tour to Australia.
"The thought of Tom not being around for three weeks and not seeing Buzz wouldn't have worked for our family. It would have been miserable.
"If the situation allows it, it's lovely for them to be part of the world and see places and be part of those memories.
"People always think being on tour is much more rock 'n' roll than it actually is. There's no sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. It's more like a creche these days. It's much more chilled out."
Despite being a successful author and blogger (she has around 800,000 Instagram followers, and her YouTube content's racked up some 10 million views), she admits to experiencing her share of fear of missing out since having kids.
"Being a mum, your life completely changes. You're needed at home, you're not going out as much, and when you've got friends who are still living the life you were once a part of and they're all out having a great time, it brings home the fact that life has changed in a major way."
She's made an effort to keep the romance alive with Tom.
"I make sure we have date nights, going to the cinema, or theatre, probably once a month. It's important to have that time, to have some adult conversation. If we're not working, we'll sit down and have a glass of wine and a chat, but we like to eat all together. When I was growing up, we always used to have dinner together."
She laughs when asked if she is romantic.
"Well, my fiction books are very romantic. And Tom is a very romantic person, which is lovely."
Giovanna (32), whose brother is Towie star Mario Falcone, first met Tom at Sylvia Young Theatre School when they were 13, before he found success in McFly.
She's admitted she used to worry about girls flinging themselves at her pop star husband, but knowing he loves her and having the other band girlfriends on call to talk to always helped.
Fans have never been a problem, she adds.
"I've always found McFly fans have been lovely and accepting. We don't go out much, anyway. We are home birds. When the kids go to bed, we're writing and doing all of our work, so we get our head down and carry on."
They socialise with the other band members and their wives, including Harry and Izzy Judd, Danny and Georgia Jones, Emma and Matt Willis and the McBusted crew.
"With the McFly guys, we all hung out and had this life together when we were kids ourselves, and now that we've seen them get married and have kids, it's nice to be part of the next chapter."
Giovanna will be teaming up with Tom professionally later this year, for the live version of his festive book The Christmasaurus, in which they'll be singing together.
"He'll be telling me off because he'll be in charge. I'm going to be bossed around," she says, laughing.
Joking aside, she adds: "Having children has definitely strengthened our relationship. We're a proper family unit. We tackle things together, but things kind of changed when we got married.
"I know people say marriage doesn't change anything, but for me, I found it really did. It unified us in so many ways. We'd been together for so long, but marriage added this extra layer that I wasn't expecting.
"I thought we were completely solid anyway and then we got married and it became this whole other thing."
- Happy Mum Happy Baby: My Adventures In Motherhood by Giovanna Fletcher is published by Coronet, £16.99
Unsettling exploration of a past evil which warns us that history often repeats itself
Fiction: The Draughtsman, By Robert Lautner, The Borough Press, £14.99 (Review by Patrick Kelleher)
Robert Lautner's latest novel, The Draughtsman, makes multiple references to Goethe, the famous German writer. As in Goethe's play Faust, Ernst in The Draughtsman enters into a sort of deal with the devil, working with the SS to create furnaces for concentration camps.
A young German man and a recent graduate, the novel opens as Ernst secures his first job in war-era Germany. The new job comes as a relief to Ernst, who had been unemployed following graduation. However, he soon discovers that the job is much more sinister than it might appear. He finds himself annotating, drawing, and designing ovens - or furnaces - to be used in concentration camps to burn the bodies of those killed.
Ernst finds himself with a difficult choice: he can either voluntarily leave his job, going back to unemployment, or he can continue working in designing the 'ovens', despite the moral ambiguities. Ultimately, he must confront whether he should do what is right, or what is easy.
That choice becomes exponentially more complex as the novel progresses. As the war continues to develop and Germany becomes an increasingly dangerous place to live, Ernst discovers that he may not have a choice at all. When he finds out a shocking truth about his wife's past, his role within the war becomes even more complicated. His working life begins to ebb into his personal life, but leaving his job may not be as easy as he once thought.
Gripping from beginning to end, The Draughtsman is a highly accomplished second novel from British author Lautner. However, it is not always easy reading. Descriptions of Auschwitz and Buchenwald are horrifying in how real they feel. Lautner engages with human suffering on a personal level, making it all the more difficult to read.
One of The Draughtsman's greatest strengths is in offering a human side to the instigators of oppression and suffering, making each character even more complex and fascinating to pore over. It is a necessary reminder that people who do bad things are not always intrinsically evil, but can become that way.
Perhaps most powerfully, the novel is also deeply affecting in how relevant it is today. Descriptions of refugees fleeing their country to seek safer ground are particularly unsettling as they are so grounded in what is happening right now.
How even the finest doctors are in despair over the paucity of funding for healthcare
Memoir: Fragile Lives, By Professor Stephen Westaby, HarperCollins, £14.99 (Review by Margaret Madden)
The medical memoir is enjoying a surge, with readers garnering insight into the lives of brain surgeons, nurses, paramedics and general practitioners. The doctors with whom we trust our lives have studied for decades and practised their specialities on real-life patients; they deal with the endless frustrations of medical bureaucracy.
Professor Stephen Westaby, one of Britain's most renowned cardiac surgeons, has addressed these realities in his memoir Fragile Lives. The book is a combination of some of Westaby's cases and an introduction to his, frankly miraculous, innovative techniques, which are still used in cardiac surgery today.
We learn that this is a man who is determined to change things. He watches his first surgery and is shocked by how quickly the surgeons leave the theatre after losing the patient on the table. He lingers and watches as the nurses wipe away all traces of the patient. He absorbs an important lesson: "Never get involved. Walk away and try again tomorrow."
However, as the book progresses, this seems to be an issue for him. Despite his best efforts, he becomes more involved with his patients than his initial mantra suggested.
Through different chapters he tells their stories and each has a thread which links the patient to their personality, past and future. These are human beings - 1987, Saudi Arabia, sees Westaby entranced by a "girl with no name". When discovered by the Red Cross she was carrying her small, sickly son. The child had an enlarged heart, on the wrong side of his body, and Westaby was the man with enough determination to attempt a repair.
This is not a book for the squeamish. There are surgeries described in blunt detail, from the first cut, through to jarring rib-spreaders and oozing blood.
Westaby seems to flick a switch from the moment he enters the operating theatre; moving from compassionate human to a surgical warrior in an instant. His genius is apparent and his concern for patient care give him a more likeable edge.
The out-of-surgery Westaby teeters between cocky and bleeding-heart. He boasts of his Jaguar, yet despairs at the lack of funding for his surgical trials.
I was impressed with Westaby's achievements; the lives he has saved and those he will save in the future, thanks to his diligence and determination. An informative read.
Praiseworthy tale of the curious Abigail
Fiction: The Coroner’s Daughter, By Andrew Hughes, Doubleday Ireland, £13.99, (Review by Roddy Brooks)
Abigail Lawless always had a curious mind and it is a thirst for fascinating facts her doting father is always eager to feed.
But when Abigail, the daughter of the coroner of Dublin in 1816, begins to dig into his business, there are sure to be dangerous consequences.
As she goes deeper, drawing those around her into peril in the process, she encounters the seedier side of the Irish capital. Not forgetting she is the daughter of a well-to-do member of society, where dressing to be the belle of the ball is more regularly under the microscope of public scrutiny than the lives of the temporary residents of her father's workrooms.
As she investigates the secrets of a young mother who killed her own child, Abigail is brought to the attention of a mysterious religious sect.
Andrew Hughes has already won acclaim for his debut novel, The Convictions Of John Delahunt, and with The Coroner's Daughter, he will win more praise.
Assured debut marks the arrival of a great American novelist
Fiction: History of Wolves, By Emily Fridlund, W&N, £12.99, (Review by Dan Brotzel)
Linda (15) lives with her mum and dad - at least she thinks they're her mum and dad - in the rundown cabins of an abandoned commune, out in the icy, forested, lakeside wilds of northern Minnesota.
She's left to her own devices most of the time, and out of school - where she is labelled "freak", or "commie" - she lives a semi-feral existence of solitary mooching and tramping and kayaking and dog-walking and fish-gutting.
Relief from this bleak existence appears in the form of the Gardners, an apparently normal nuclear family - mum, four-year-old boy and mostly absent dad - who take up residence in a cabin across the lake.
Linda gets to know mum Patra and son Paul, becoming their long-term babysitter.
In her desperation to be wanted, to be welcomed as part of something, she becomes a sort of benign stalker of the family.
And she also overlooks their increasingly odd behaviour, when Paul falls ill and his condition worsens; ignoring his condition, indeed, becomes the price of acceptance into the family.
The chilling plot is only part of the mesmerising power of this assured and striking debut. Fridlund deftly builds atmosphere and evokes a sense of place, generates a terrible sense of foreboding and creates a cast of characters of utterly credible complexity.
Haunting and compelling, here is a first novel from another great new American novelist.
A charming homage brings Mr Toad and friends up to date for digital generation
Children's book of the week: The New Adventures of Mr Toad, By Tom Moorhouse, Oxford University Press, £5.99 (Review by Kate Whiting)
Kenneth Grahame's beloved animal characters have been brought up to date for a new generation of young readers.
Since it was first published in 1908, The Wind In The Willows -which Grahame wrote for his son Alastair - has charmed millions of children, with the magical adventure of Ratty, Mole and the irrepressible Toad of Toad Hall.
In Moorhouse's update, Toad has been frozen by the wicked weasels in his own ice house for 100 years - and is discovered snoring by his descendent Teejay and her pals Ratty and Mo (also relatives of the originals), when they fall down a hall and find a tunnel leading to Toad Hall.
The country pile has been left to crumble for decades and now the weasels (operating as a company called Wildwood Industrious) want to bulldoze it and build new homes.
Toad takes on a bet with the chief executive weasel that he can beat Stiggy the stoat in a car race - with only Teejay's guardian Ms Badger's old banger to hand.
Packed with plenty of 'poop-poops!' and captured beautifully by Holly Swain's muted illustrations, A Race For Toad Hall pays gentle homage to Grahame's original, while creating a rip-roaring ride for the digital generation.