Hastings – “a bit like Call The Midwife, but with chocolate instead of babies”

Alex hutchinson
Alex hutchinson

Alex Hutchinson, better known by his pseudonym Penny Thorpe, signed a two-book deal in 2018 with the HarperCollins publishing house.

Alex – who attended Silverdale, Elphinstone and Helenswood Schools in Hastings – believes part of her success as a novelist is due to the Hastings Children’s Library.

“I loved the old Robertson Street children’s library, and found a Saturday girl job there when I was fifteen. It was such an inspiring place, and the staff really encouraged the kids to love books and love to learn. The summer reading challenges – entirely designed and illustrated by Pauline the librarian – were the highlight of my year. Pauline and the other library staff encouraged me to read a lot and believe that if I kept writing I might one day be published.

Alex’s Quality Street series takes place in the Halifax factory that makes the famous assortment of chocolates and toffees of the same name.

Alex described his books as: “Kind of like Call The Midwife, but with chocolate instead of babies. They follow the story of four girls who worked at the factory in the 1930s and managed to get all kinds of scratches. Not to mention a horse called Ruffian who has become so popular with readers that he now receives his own fan mail. I have several unpublished manuscripts that I haven’t shown to anyone yet, and one of them takes place in Hastings. However, at the moment I am only thinking of the Quality Street Girls. The third book is finished and dusted off, and the editors asked me if I wanted to continue the series. I am busy preparing for this next adventure.

Alex is uniquely positioned to write about chocolate factories who spent more than a decade working in the former Rowntree factory in York as a historian and in-house archivist.

Alex is a specialist in the history of chocolate and she appears regularly on television and radio to talk about the subject.

Alex recently appeared in the Channel 5 series The Wonderful World of Chocolate, where she contributes regularly. She also appeared alongside Richard Osman in the chocolate episode of Radio 4’s hit show You’re Dead To Me, hosted by Greg Jenner. Alex’s episode was the third most watched of all BBC radio shows on BBC Sounds throughout 2020.

The Quality Street Wedding is the third in a series of books that begins with The Quality Street Girls and is followed by The Mothers of Quality Street. The Quality Street Girls is available at any bookstore in hardback, paperback, and large print. The e-book is available from most e-book retailers and the audiobook (read by Sherry Baines) can be downloaded through Audible.com or the RNIB library.

Alex lives in Otley in West Yorkshire.


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