Melissa Nathan

Bestselling comic romantic novelist


Melissa Jane Nathan, writer: born 13 June 1968; married 1995 Andrew Saffron (one son); died London 7 April 2006.

Melissa Nathan was a novelist and journalist whose entertaining romantic comedies were deservedly bestsellers. Her work had a broader range than many love stories aimed at young women; she focused on the world of work for the post-feminist generation in the hugely popular novels The Nanny (2002) and The Waitress (2004). Her final book, The Learning Curve, which will be published in August, has a teacher as heroine.

Nathan was as witty and warm in person as in her writing. Her exceptional ability to express herself with total honesty shone through in her column in The Jewish Chronicle, where she struck a chord with many readers by proudly owning to a particularly British brand of not-quite-secular, not-quite-religious Jewishness.

Born, in 1968, and raised in Hertfordshire, Melissa Nathan studied Communications at the Polytechnic of Wales in Pontypridd (now the University of Glamorgan); always a keen actress, she had turned down a place at drama school but continued acting at college, taking one play to the Edinburgh fringe. She took a post-graduate course in journalism at Cardiff University and worked as a writer and sub-editor for various women's magazines, but her ambitions lay in creative writing.

Her first novel, Pride, Prejudice and Jasmin Field (2000), reworked Jane Austen in a modern setting; she used her acting experience to portray a group of amateurs putting on a play version of Pride and Prejudice - with Mr Darcy transformed into a celebrity actor.

When working on her next book, Persuading Annie (2001), Nathan was diagnosed with breast cancer. She refused to let the illness dominate her life, and - in public anyway - was unfailingly positive. She had no time for most journalism written by cancer sufferers: "self-indulgent dirges without a helpline in sight", as she described them. Instead she joked about breast cancer's unoriginality in her Jewish Chronicle column and then added:

That was what you call laughing in adversity. It's what makes people smile mistily at me, as if I'm fading in front of their very eyes while telling knock-knock jokes. What they don't know is that I have daydreams about being the oldest person at their funeral.

Melissa Nathan feared that the cancer would prevent her from becoming a mother, but initial treatment went well and in March 2003 she seemed to have triumphed over adversity - her adored son Sam was born and The Nanny shot into the top ten bestselling British novels. Her work was finding an international audience too, particularly in the United States.

Alas, just weeks after Sam's birth, it was confirmed that her cancer had returned and spread to her liver. Nathan underwent gruelling cycles of treatment, but carried on with extensive research for her latest novel, The Waitress, including working in a café.

Melissa Nathan's heroines always achieved more than just falling in love; as a feminist, she created rounded characters struggling to find their vocation, and she skilfully observed the social, family and career pressures faced by young women. The Waitress was another bestseller, and Nathan signed a new two-book deal with Random House. The publishers now plan to reissue her first two novels, and will also, with her agent, set up an award in her memory for comic romantic fiction.

Melissa Nathan faced terminal illness with great courage, preferring laughter to tears. She was extremely happy in her marriage to Andrew Saffron and delighted in her son; she made an incredible effort to attend his third birthday party. She spent her final weeks finishing The Learning Curve, and writing letters and stories for Sam to read when he is older.

In her last column for The Jewish Chronicle, published on 2 March, Nathan wrote about our culture's hatred for looking older:

Of course, no one likes the frailty that can come from old age, but guess what? The opposite of age is not youth: it's death. Age is not the approach towards death, it's the increasingly precious alternative to it. So, as I grow older, I want to look older, dammit. Otherwise where's the glory in survival?

Keren David

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering