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"The stuff in italics is dreadful tosh," she says of The Life of Pi. I started skipping."This is very bad news for the author, Yann Martel, as it means he is not going to win the Best of the Booker, arguably the most prestigious literary prize ever awarded in this country. We must look thick as thieves, huddled in the corner of a members' club in Notting Hill, west London (her natural habitat). Mariella Frostrup has all the attributes of a potential best pal.The winner will be announced on Thursday, once the public has elected the finest of the 41 novels to have won the Booker Prize. But now I remember reading about her working the same magic on other journalists. That voice makes the 45-year-old sound like someone who has seen the world, could drink you under the table and has stories to tell. "I wouldn't tell them if I had sex with John who lives down the road." Yes, but this is not John. And anyway, isn't it a bit rich not to want to talk about sex when your own advice column depends on people writing in to confess all? " And anyway, she says, she writes less about what goes on in the bed, and more about the head. " Holed up in freezing Montreal to interview George Clooney, Mariella expects a quick chat between takes.George Clooney is four doors away in his hotel room. Outside, the rare sound of a siren fills the silence of the frozen Montreal night.He's actor George Clooney, Mariella's great friend and the children's (Molly, four, and three-year-old Danny) 'responsible adult with an interest in their welfare'.I'm obnoxiously smug, because I feel I've been so bloody lucky, says Mariella If Mariella and her husband, human rights lawyer Jason Mc Cue, had been particularly religious, Uncle George might have been the children's godfather, but they're not, so he isn't. 'Definitely not, I don't understand why people think that,' she pulls a you-better-believe-this sort of face.
It was only a few years later that she married the human rights lawyer Jason Mc Cue. Apart from the fact that as far as I am concerned, and maybe it's naïve, my career is not in any way attached to the way I look." No, of course not. Men that aren't threatened by opinionated, faintly aggressive women are in a minority." In the circumstances, I'm slightly afraid of asking the next question, but it is about books, at least.
I'm not that much of a freakish middle-aged mother, I'm just very lucky, and there isn't much more to say. If I ever write a book, it will be called Bottle Blonde." No more comments about appearance then (although she says she has stubby arms and is unsure about the Orla Kiely dress). "That's what people want to know about." As someone we're used to seeing in a highly polished state on the telly, don't the same rules apply to her? Millions of women the world over want to do foul things to him." Actually, quite a few men wouldn't mind doing foul – as in quite nice, really – things to her. "But sometimes when people are academic, maybe they miss a bit of that genuine enthusiasm." She grew up in Ireland, in a house full of books.
We have watched the perky blonde with the honeyed come-hither voice graduate from reviewing videos on late night television and doing voice-overs for Persil advertisements, to presenting Open Book on Radio 4 (and until recently The Book Show on Sky Arts).
She came to my wedding, which wasn't easy for her given that her engagement to former London Records boss Tracy Bennett had just been called off. He was a young guy who always made everybody smile and always got the party going.
Sorry, but I just can't get that question out of my head, even as Mariella Frostrup demolishes an acclaimed work of literature in her famously husky voice. Frostrup is one of those people with the knack of intimacy, the ability to become – or appear – an instant friend.