Helen Walmsley Johnson’s brave and unflinching memoir on coercive control, LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO, is published today by Macmillan in hardback and ebook. Helen’s frank account of life in an abusive relationship is a valuable read that opens up an important conversation about what coercive control is, and the fight to overcome it.

For more than two years, BBC Radio 4’s The Archers ran a disturbing storyline centred on Helen Tichener’s abuse at the hands of her husband Rob. Not the kind of abuse that leaves a bruise, but the sort of coercive control that breaks your spirit and makes it almost impossible to walk away. As she listened to the unfolding story, Helen Walmsley-Johnson was forced to confront her own agonising past.

Helen’s first husband controlled her life, from the people she saw to what was in her bank account. He alienated her from friends and family and even from their three daughters. Eventually, he threw her out and she painfully began to rebuild her life. Then, divorced and in her early forties, she met Franc. Kind, charming, considerate Franc. For ten years she would be in his thrall, even when he too was telling her what to wear, what to eat, even what to think.

LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO is Helen’s candid and utterly gripping memoir of how she was trapped by a smiling abuser, not once but twice. It is a vital guide to recognising, understanding and surviving this sinister form of abuse and its often terrible legacy. It is also an inspirational account of how one woman found the courage to walk away.

You can read extracts from LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO in both YOU magazine, and The Times Magazine. Yesterday, Helen appeared on the Victoria Derbyshire show, talking openly about the abuse she endured in her past relationships. She will be attending the Southbank Centre’s Women of the World festival tomorrow, joining a panel to discuss the how shame is used to control women. In June, she will be speaking at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival.

Helen Walmsley-Johnson was the author of the Guardian’s popular ‘The Vintage Years’ column, on older women and style. She worked for the Daily Telegraph, before joining the Guardian as Alan Rusbridger’s PA for seven years. Her book about middle-age, THE INVISIBLE WOMAN, was published to great acclaim in 2015. She lives in Rutland.

Follow Helen on Twitter


‘A brave and gripping book…Her book, part-memoir, part self-help unpicks exactly what happened to her, demonstrating just how blithely easy it is to succumb to this form of domestic abuse, but critically it’s also about how to recognise it, survive it, and rebuild your life in the aftermath.’ — The Bookseller

‘Walmsley-Johnson has succeeded in her fundamental aim: to offer a valuable map of coercive abuse. She has also written a warming, subtle and realistic narrative of recovery.’ — Terri Apter, The Times Literary Supplement


‘THE INVISIBLE WOMAN always speaks to me, and for me. It's about saying up yours to the cult of youth, but also about seeing the life of the 50 + as hilariously funny (not unlike the life of the 15-year-old, when you come to think about it).’ — Professor Mary Beard

‘THE INVISIBLE WOMAN remains a warm, companionable book with a tart aftertaste. Above all – and this is perhaps not quite its intention – it is a reminder to all of us, man, woman, young or getting on a bit, that, no matter how solid our lives seem, we are all of us one bad decision or single piece of rotten luck away from losing everything. And for that we should be both grateful and prepared.’ — Kathryn Hughes, Guardian

‘I imagined this book as a witty riposte to ageing, and in some ways it is. But it’s much more than that. It’s full of serious insights. The author, approaching 60 at the time of writing, tells us about ageing and about how it seems to have changed in her lifetime. She makes the point that, years ago, retirement was “a reward” but now it “could be seen as the punishment”. She is excellent, too, on midlife crises, the death of parents, memory, and how to deal with the passing of time.' — Evening Standard

Pan Macmillan acquires memoir of coercive abuse by Helen Walmsley-Johnson, acclaimed Guardian commentator and author of The Invisible Woman

‘Not all abusive relationships can be measured in broken bones and bruises. Not all abusive relationships are visible to the untrained eye.’ - Helen Walmsley-Johnson

For more than a year, the unfolding story of Helen Titchener has gripped the residents of Ambridge and, via Radio 4’s long-running drama The Archers, the nation.  Now, found not guilty, freed from prison and with her children at last restored to her, Helen is free to get on with her life.   But her abusive husband Rob is still in Ambridge and the story is not yet over.

As the story developed, one listener shuddered as what was happening to the fictional Helen brought back painful memories of what she herself had gone through.  Not once, but twice.  When Helen Walmsley-Johnson published a remarkably frank piece about her experiences as a victim of abuse in the New Statesman, she received an overwhelming response.  Since then, Helen has been an active presence in the media as a commentator on coercive abuse.  In her as yet untitled memoir, Helen will describe with typically clear-sighted candour how very easy it is to succumb to this form of domestic abuse, but – more importantly – how to survive it and rebuild your life.

Non-Fiction Editorial Director Georgina Morley said, ‘I am thrilled to be publishing Helen.  We first met on Twitter, where her bracing tweetalong to the Archers omnibus has won her countless friends and fans.  Now, she tells her own story – and the story of so many women who have suffered from abusive partners.  Her book will find a wide readership and will, I have no doubt, help many women find the courage to tell their stories and to seek help.’

Helen Walmsley-Johnson said, ‘I hadn’t been able to give a name to my experiences until I read the Home Office list of typical behaviour in a coercive relationship; I read it because of Helen’s story in The Archers, and it rang a number of bells for me personally. I have to thank the women (and men) who got in touch after I wrote that first piece back in February, for starting me on the path to this book: I will endeavour to be as ‘bracing’ as my Twitter feed in seeing it through to completion under expert eye of George Morley and Pan Macmillan, and am delighted to be able to keep this important conversation going.’

Macmillan acquired UK & Commonwealth rights from Juliet Pickering at Blake Friedmann and will publish in early 2018.

For further information please contact Sarah Patel in the Pan Macmillan press office on 020 7014 6187 or email sarah.patel@macmillan.com

About Pan Macmillan

Pan Macmillan is the UK general book publishing arm of the Macmillan Group, which operates in over 70 countries.  Its imprints include Macmillan, Mantle, Pan, Picador, Bluebird, Boxtree, Sidgwick & Jackson, Bello, Tor, Macmillan Children's Books, Campbell Books, Macmillan New Writing and Macmillan Digital Audio.


THE INVISIBLE WOMAN out in paperback tomorrow

Helen Walmsley-Johnson’s THE INVISIBLE WOMAN is published in paperback in the UK tomorrow by Icon Books.

THE INVISIBLE WOMAN is a funny, frank and essential book on ageing. Helen discusses what it is to reach your fifties, look both backwards and forwards, and how to continue pursuing adventures in later life even when it seems your brain and body are against you.

To give you a flavour of the book, here are some of our favourite quotes:

“The 'age 55 to 64' box is the God's waiting room of my form-filling life.”

“The older I become the more I feel deeply and symbiotically attached to my pyjamas.”

“Polyester is to menopausal women as garlic is to a vampire.”

“Ageism has sexism running through the middle like a stick of Blackpool rock.”

“As a middle-aged person I steadfastly refuse to be rushed into anything.”

“Keeping your mind open and curious is one of the most vital things you will ever do.”

Helen has written a variety of opinion pieces for the Guardian, is a regular contributor to Standard Issue, and has spoken out against ageism on Woman's Hour and BBC radio. Recently, she has made headlines talking about her experiences of domestic abuse in the New Statesman and The Pool, as well as helping raise over £130,000 for Refuge.

Helen is the author of the popular Guardian online fashion column, The Vintage Years, the response to which inspired THE INVISIBLE WOMAN. She moved to London in 2001 after losing patience with rampant workplace ageism in Leicestershire and Rutland where she grew up, was educated and later brought up her three daughters as a divorced single mum. She has also worked as a dancer, aerobics instructor, model, designer, artist, medical secretary and shop assistant - but not at the same time.


‘THE INVISIBLE WOMAN always speaks to me, and for me. It's about saying up yours to the cult of youth, but also about seeing the life of the 50 + as hilariously funny (not unlike the life of the 15 year old, when you come to think about it).’ – Professor Mary Beard

'THE INVISIBLE WOMAN in The Vintage Year reminds us that style and wit begin in youth but are mastered in middle-age. You can roundly stick your 20's. Hers is a voice for proper grown-ups not yet ready to come down, and I'm in.' - Alison Moyet

‘A funny look at those of a certain age who are fed up with being overlooked.’ – Good Housekeeping

Helen Walmsley-Johnson Speaks Out About Domestic Abuse

Photo credit: Anna Gordon for Guardian

Photo credit: Anna Gordon for Guardian

After listening to the story of Helen Tichener’s abusive relationship on The Archers, Helen Walmsley Johnson has written about her own similar story in the New Statesman. The piece has been widely shared and a fund was set up to raise money for Refuge, to help women in situations like those of the Helens. They’ve now had contributions amounting to £11,685 and still growing. For anyone able to donate, Refuge, Paul and Helen deeply appreciate all contributions to this important cause. 

Helen, writing as The Invisible Woman, is a freelance writer and author of the popular column The Vintage Years, which she wrote for the Guardian. She has spoken out against ageism on Woman's Hour and BBC radio and now writes for various publications, including regular articles for Standard Issue

Her book on ageing, THE INVISIBLE WOMAN, was published by Icon Books in June 2015. Funny and frank, Helen discusses what it is to reach your fifties, look both backwards and forwards, and how to continue pursuing adventures in later life even when it seems your brain and your body are working against you. 

Praise for Helen Walmsley Johnson:

‘We love the way Helen writes. She tells it as it is because she KNOWS how it is.’ – Gransnet

‘THE INVISIBLE WOMAN always speaks to me, and for me. It's about saying up yours to the cult of youth, but also about seeing the life of the 50 + as hilariously funny’ – Professor Mary Beard

The Invisible Woman on Twitter 

Blake Friedmann authors at the Wigtown Book Festival

The Wigtown Book Festival begins on 23rd September and it’s the perfect chance to catch four Blake Friedmann authors discussing their work. The festival takes place over ten days and welcomes over 100 writers to Wigtown, this year including Frank Gardner, Val McDermid and Phill Jupitus.

Pippa Goldschmidt will be taking part in two different events at the festival. On Sunday 27th September she will be running a creative writing workshop with a difference at her Dark Skies experience, free for under 25s. She will also be talking with Marek Kukula about I AM BECAUSE YOU ARE, an anthology she recently co-edited, and the legacy of Einstein’s achievement.

On Monday 28th September Helen Walmsley-Johnson will be talking about her manifesto for middle-age, THE INVISIBLE WOMAN. Tickets are available here.

On Sunday 4th October, Gregory Norminton will be talking about French classic THE LITTLE PRINCE by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry as part of the Children’s Festival. Buy tickets here.

Janice Galloway will also be talking about her short story collection JELLYFISH, published by Freight Books, at the McNeillie tent – you can buy tickets here.

For more information about Wigtown Book Festival, you can visit their website.